Tracy Lawrence and Ricky Skaggs recently released worthy new albums on their own record labels, thus putting a familiar face on the wide world of independent music.
Skaggs returns with Cluck Old Hen, an engaging concert album he recorded with his buddy, Bruce Hornsby. (Their verbal song introductions are segmented as separate tracks, so you can easily skip through all the talking.) Personal highlights include "How Mountain Girls Can Love," "The Way It Is" and fun cover of Bill Monroe's "Toy Heart."
Lawrence's Headlights, Taillights and Radios brings to mind the material that made him a star in the 1990s. The twang in his voice is an ideal counterpart to clever lyrics in songs like "Where I Used to Live," "Lie" and "Cloud of Dust." Although he was once a prolific writer, Lawrence contributed only two co-written songs to this album. However, his distinctive delivery is as strong as ever.
Meanwhile, Americana listeners might enjoy new tracks like Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys' "What a Dream It's Been" (with guest Grey DeLisle), Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers' "Hey Stranger," the Coal Men's "Tennessee" and the Defibulators' "Get Yer Papers," along with Lowland Hum's "Twine," Rusty Truck's "Rattle Trucks" and Willie Sugarcapps' "Gypsy Train."
Singer-songwriters remain plentiful. Notable new tracks include Sam Baker's "Say Grace," Tim Easton's "Not Cool," Charlie Faye's "How Long" and Robbie Fulks' "Rose of the Summer." Also listen for Brendan James' "Hillary," Julie Kathryn's wistful "Windfall," Kim Lenz's "Follow Me," Austin Lucas' "Four Wheels" and Luray's "Crying."
Also recommended are Carly Ritter's "Princess of the Prairie" and Amanda Shires' "Devastate," as well as Stephen Simmons' "Hard It Goes" and Cale Tyson's "Lonesome in Tennessee." Followers of bluegrass and acoustic music should seek out the Greencards' "Paddle the Torrens," Pete Huttlinger's "Catch and Release," Chris Jones & the Night Drivers' "Lonely Comes Easy" and Mandolin Orange's "Waltz About Whiskey."