Nearly all variations of country music — from contemporary and singer-songwriter, to Texas honky-tonk, alt-country and old-fashioned bluegrass — are represented in this week’s new releases, and Phil Vassar ’s American Child shall lead them.
Piano man Vassar follows up his gold debut with American Child (Arista Nashville), which features 12 songs he co-wrote. Vassar and Craig Wiseman, the team behind Vassar’s first No. 1, “Just Another Day in Paradise,” reunited for the title track, which is No. 21 on this week’s Billboard country singles chart. Rob Thomas, lead singer for rock band matchbox twenty, pitched in to write “Someone You Love,” though he doesn’t sing on the track.
Allison Moorer ’s fans will treasure Miss Fortune (Universal South), which is far more ambitious than her two previous albums. She and husband Doyle Primm wrote all of Miss Fortune, except for “You Can’t Get There From Here, a collaboration between Moorer and Bruce Robison (“Angry All the Time”). Although the album features flophouse ragtime, devastating ballads and flat-out rock, the first single, “Cold in California,” sticks close to country. Moorer may be familiar to CMT viewers for her eye-catching videos for “A Soft Place to Fall,” “Alabama Song” and “Send Down an Angel.”
Rebecca Lynn Howard ’s current country hit, “Forgive,” is a highlight of the introspective soundtrack to the television series Providence (MCA Nashville). Nashville is further represented on the soundtrack by previously released material from singer-songwriters Kim Richey and Beth Nielsen Chapman. Fans of such folk-influenced rock may also recognize artists like Shawn Colvin, Marc Cohn, Jonatha Brooke and Dar Williams.
Formerly a member of the hard rock band Dangerous Toys, Kevin Fowler has reinvented himself as a honky-tonk singer in his home state of Texas. That didn’t stop him from covering Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” for High on the Hog (Tin Roof Records). Fowler’s third solo album also features Willie Nelson, Tejano singer David Lee Garza and beer songs aplenty. Fowler’s previous album, Beer, Bait & Ammo, sold more than 25,000 copies, largely in Texas.
Fans of Pat Green know who Walt Wilkins is, considering the rootsy songwriter gets a shout-out in Green’s hit, “Carry On.” Wilkins, a Texan who lives in Nashville, releases Rivertown on the Western Beat label. Green and Kevin Welch make guest appearances. Western Beat also reissues the self-titled debut from Jubal Foster, currently one of Nashville’s most promising bands. The winning harmonies are pure bluegrass, though the music dips into many facets of country, from West Coast to honky-tonk.
The New England area probably first heard bluegrass music when the Lilly Brothers moved to Cambridge, Mass., 50 years ago. The duo, along with banjo player Don Stover, hailed from West Virginia, and their music was pure Appalachian. The Lilly Brothers made a name for themselves playing for 20 years at the Hillybilly Ranch in Boston. On the Radio 1952-1953 (Rounder) collects previously unissued on-air performances, with compositions from Lester Flatt , Grandpa Jones and Bill Monroe , among others.