The SteelDrivers – The SteelDrivers (Rounder Records, 15 Jan 08)
I tripped over this band on a sampler included with a music magazine. Their song was track one and I liked it so much it took several tries before I could hear the rest of the disc. If you like your bluegrass really blue and leaning a little bit more to the Country side of the equation then I have a band for you. The Nashville quintet has a resume that reads like a Who's Who in Country music volume. They follow the traditional string and vocal lineup (guitar, banjo, base, fiddle, mandolin & harmonies) and do not stray far from the standard format. Front man Chris Stapleton would be just as comfortable, not to mention effective, using his smokey tenor to lead a Blues band. In fact his soulful delivery and song writing talent play a big part in keeping The SteelDrivers from being just another Bluegrass band.Tammy Rogers, the band's primary harmony vocal, adds breadth and depth by making her fiddle weep, moan and wail. And Richard Bailey's banjo contributes a hearty level of melody and just the right amount of lead. The two Mikes hold down the bottom end. Henderson on Mandolin and Fleming on Bass. My favorite track is If It Hadn't Been For Love.
Dr. Dog – Fate (Park the Van Records, 22 Jul 08)
In the traditional of Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes and Grand Archives, Dr. Dog takes a little bit of all that's come before, mixes it thoroughly and makes it their own. Is it Folk? Is it Rock? Is it Country? Who cares, it's great music and it transcends genres. Fate is the band's fifth full length release. Dr. Dog was formed in Philadelphia in 2001, but it wasn't until touring with My Mourning Jacket in 2004 that they began to receive recognition. Band members and friends get nicknames like Taxi & Thanks. As near as I can tell there are five talented, multi-instrumentalist in the group and everyone appears to sing. I don't have any standout tracks on the release because I like them all, although Army of Ancients reminds me of The Beatles later work.
Amelia – A Long Lovely List of Repairs (Adrenaline Records 22 Apr 08)
Portland's own Amelia has been touring the West for several years impressing audiences with their blend of Folk, Country, Rock. The band has included members of the Flatirons, The Decemberists and Tin Hat. Right now they are a trio and Teisha Helgerson's sweet vocals will melt the hard of the hardest rogue. It's pleasant music for a rainy day.
Two bands that I have to mention simply because I love their music:
Blue Mountain This trio from Mississippi has been playing Alt-Country since the late 80s and they do it well. I discovered them as a result of an article in No Depression (damn I miss that magazine.) I bought every one of their recordings over the following week. My favorite so far is Dog Days. I love the track Blue Canoe. Give it a spin, you won't be disappointed.
The Coming Grass A quintet from Maine (One step closer to the rest of the world) "playing 70s rock today," Even though they haven't released anything new for quite a while Beauty of a Heart gets regular rotation at my house. Don't Be Wasting My Time & Work It Out are gems requiring no further polish.
More to follow…