If you've been a longtime fan of country music, the past month has offered a bounty of new music that's worth a listen. Vince Gill, Guy Clark, Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan all returned to the scene with fresh recordings.
Gill teamed with esteemed steel guitarist Paul Franklin for Bakersfield, a pleasant duets album that recalls the golden era of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens in that California city's music scene. A highlight is their plaintive reading of Haggard's "Holding Things Together." Morgan and Tillis hold it together, too, for their duets album, Dos Divas. The title track showcases their vibrant personalities beautifully.
Clark's My Favorite Picture of You is a poetic collection of new material. Although his voice is frayed, it still conveys the hard-won wisdom of a gifted storyteller. Proving that he's still one of the most talented writers in Nashville, don't miss "The Death of Sis Draper," "Good Advice" or "Hell Bent on a Heartache." These compositions are as strong as anything in his catalog.
Fans of singer-songwriters will also enjoy Earl Poole Ball's "Pianography (and Then Some)," Alice Gerrard's "Play Me a Song I Can Cry To" and Kara Grainger's "Little Pack of Lies," as well as Scott Cook's "One More Time Around," Vincent Cross' "A Town Called Normal," Sara Hickman's "Shine" and a live version of Phoebe Hunt's "Fly On."
More singer-songwriter highlights include Gregory Alan Isakov's "Second Chances," Cara Luft's "Only Love Can Save Me," James Maddock's "I've Been There Too" and John Moreland's "Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore." (Hey, I do!)
More recommendations: Michael Martin Murphey's "Under a Rolling Sky," Ned Van Go's "Lost in the Trouble," Sara Petite's "Circus Comes to Town," Kevin Presbey's "Sunrise," Darden Smith's "Love Calling," Mike Stinson's "Late for My Funeral," Patrick Sweaney's "Bus Station" and Tim and Myles Thompson's "Time for Me to Go."
Curious bluegrass fans will want to track down Ron Block's "Walking Song," Jeff Brown & Still Lonesome's "Blue Side of Me," the Deadly Gentlemen's "It'll End Too Soon," Head for the Hills' "Blue Ruin" and Nu-Blu's "That Road."
Meanwhile, Americana fans might like to hear the Barn Birds' "We Used to Be Birds," Bombadil's "Thank You," Jonas Friddle & the Majority's "All My Leaving Is Done," Ghosts Along the Brazos' "Down 'n' Lonely," New Country Rehab's "Home to You," the Tillers' "Old Westside" and Westbound Rangers' "One of These Days."