10 Independent Albums Worth Checking Out in Early 2009

Raul Malo, Buddy & Julie Miller, Bobby Osborne Offer New Music

Now that the holidays are over, independent labels are celebrating a new year with fresh music from former Mavericks vocalist Raul Malo, singer-songwriter duo Buddy & Julie Miller, bluegrass mainstay Bobby Osborne and others. Along with their scheduled release dates, here are 10 rootsy albums that are worth looking forward to in 2009.

Jan. 20

Beausoleil Avec Michael Doucet, Alligator Purse (Yep Roc)
This fiery Cajun band gets funky, even translating Bob Dylan‘s “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” into the French language. Special guests include Natalie Merchant and former Band keyboardist Garth Hudson.

Pam Gadd, Benefit of Doubt (Home Sweet Highway)
This singer-songwriter is cradling a banjo on her album cover, so it’s only natural that she’s joined by Dolly Parton, Marty Raybon, Steve Gulley and stellar bluegrass pickers.

Bobby Osborne, Bluegrass & Beyond (Rounder)
His bluegrass cred is undeniable, but here he branches out on such unlikely songs as Eddie Rabbitt‘s “Driving My Life Away” and the Eagles‘ “Girl From Yesterday.”

Feb. 3

Ben Kweller, Changing Horses (ATO)
After nine years in New York, this indie rocker moved back to his native Texas and indulged in his country roots. It sounds like a Gram Parsons album, with loads of steel.

Gary Louris and Mark Olson, Ready for the Flood (New West)
These guys recapture that musical melancholy from their glory days in the Jayhawks — even though it’s their first collaboration since leaving that alt-country band in 1995.

Various Artists, Undone: A MusicFest Tribute to Robert Earl Keen (Right Ave/Dickson)
The road goes on forever, and this double-disc is nearly as expansive, with numerous Texas bands paying tribute at a series of concerts in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Feb. 10

Michael Martin Murphey, Buckaroo Bluegrass (Rural Rhythm)
For his first bluegrass album, the singer-songwriter reworks one of his most enduring songs, “Carolina in the Pines.” Sam Bush and Rhonda Vincent are among the many guests.

Feb. 17

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (Lightning Rod)
Formerly of Drive-By Truckers, Isbell and his new band recorded this vividly written album in just two weeks in the Fame Studios near his home in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

March 3

Raul Malo, Lucky One (Fantasy)
One of the most evocative singers in Nashville, this former frontman for the Mavericks returns with his first album of original material in seven years. Man, this guy can croon.

Buddy & Julie Miller, Written in Chalk (New West)
Some tunes are fun and funky, but sterling harmonies by Patty Griffin (“Chalk”) and Emmylou Harris (“The Selfishness of Man”) underscore the emotional wallop.