In this week’s new releases, Dolly Parton stays true to bluegrass for Halos & Horns, and Andy Griggs returns with Freedom. Plus, three accomplished acoustic musicians cover the classics, and two alt-country favorites release live albums.
A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the 56-year-old Parton has enjoyed a career resurgence by returning to her roots. Halos & Horns is her third album for Sugar Hill Records; she tips her hat to the independent label on one of the album’s breezy tunes, “Sugar Hill.” The Tennessee native also reprises one of her older songs, “Shattered Image.” Parton wrote 12 of the 14 songs and produced the album. Covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Bread’s “If” round out the record. The enhanced CD includes a video interview and studio footage. Famed celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz snapped the cover shot.
Three years after scoring a No. 2 hit with “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely,” Griggs returns with Freedom (RCA). The second single from the album, “Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man,” will likely break into the Billboard Top 10 this week. Martina McBride lends her magnificent pipes to “Practice Life,” and Tom Kiefer, of the metal band Cinderella, sings on “Hundred Miles of Blacktop.” Griggs, Kiefer and Kiefer’s girlfriend, Savannah Snow, co-wrote the song. Griggs and his producer, David Malloy, teamed with David Lee Murphy to write the revved-up tune “Custom Made.”
The musicians in Phillips, Grier & Flinner have won numerous awards for their instrumental skills. Todd Phillips, on bass, has two Grammys; David Grier has earned three trophies from the International Bluegrass Music Association as guitarist of the year; and Matt Flinner, on mandolin, has twice captured the Winfield National Championship. For their second collaborative effort, Looking Back (Compass), the trio revives favorites from Bill Monroe to the Beatles, among others.
The Handsome Family offers Live at Schuba’s Tavern (DCN), while Cross Canadian Ragweed gets Live and Loud at Billy Bob’s Texas (Image Entertainment). Both alt-country acts are known for their live shows.
Mike McClure, the leader of country band The Great Divide , steps out for an acoustic solo effort, 12 Pieces (Compadre). Guests include Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed and Susan Gibson, the Texas songwriter behind the Dixie Chicks ’ “Wide Open Spaces.”