When the fall season rolls around, new releases stack up quickly. Here are some highlights from an abundant harvest of new Americana and bluegrass albums over the last four or five weeks.
The Steep Canyon Rangers' Tell the Ones I Love pulls in listeners with smart songs and a looser feel than many bluegrass bands. The Grammy-winning group recorded it at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock, N.Y., and filmed a video for the title track just outside Nashville.
After graduating from college, gifted instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz is tackling music fulltime with Build Me Up From Bones. Meanwhile, two veterans of the acoustic scene -- Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott -- have reunited for the masterful Memories and Moments. Listening to the title tracks of both albums, you'll hear that songwriting and skillful playing are alive and well in the Americana and bluegrass world.
Bluegrass fans will also enjoy Darin and Brooke Aldridge's "Laurie Stephens," the Bankesters' "Love Has Wheels," Finnders & Youngberg's "Hey Ramona" and Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road's "That's Kentucky," as well as Old Buck's "Nancy Ann," Noam Pikelny's haunting take on Bill Monroe's "Jerusalem Ridge" and Lou Reid & Carolina's live rendition of "Grass Lover."
Americana listeners won't face a shortage of new music this fall. Highlights include Band of Heathens' "Shake the Foundation," the Blind Boys of Alabama's "Jubilee" (with Patty Griffin), the Deep Dark Woods' "18th of December," Deer Tick's "Hey Doll" and Elephant Revival's "Birds and Stars."
More favorites include North Mississippi All Stars' "Meet Me in the City," Over the Rhine's "Meet Me at the Edge of the World" and Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands' "The Last Breath of Her Lullaby." In addition, seek out Rusty Belle's "The Waves," Tired Pony's "All Things All at Once," Wild Ponies' "Trigger" and the Wood Brothers' "I Got Loaded."
Songwriters are as plentiful as ever. If you're into roots music, these tracks are worth unearthing: Pete Anderson's "Outta the Fire," Audrey Auld's "Drinking Problem," Mike Beck's "Krissy and the Red Roan," Ane Brun's "Gillian," Richard Buckner's "Surrounded," Stewart Eastham's "Born in California" and Ernie Hendrickson's "California Farewell."
More recommendations include Tim Hus' trucker anthem, "Western Star," as well as Meg Hutchinson's "Beyond That," Jonny Kaplan & the Crazy Stars' "Sparkle and Shine," Fats Kaplin's "Shawnee Waltz," John Paul Keith's "New Year's Eve," Drew Kennedy's "Age and Color" and John David Kent's "Before the Sun Comes Up."
For true country duets, try Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay's "Before the World Was Made," the title track of their satisfying debut album. And if you're still hungry, check out Cyril Neville's "Blues Is the Truth," Charlie Robison's "Brand New Me" (written by his brother Bruce), Rick Shea's "Mexicali Train," Myla Smith's "Hiding Places" and Brian Wright's "Haunted."
Numerous familiar faces are cropping up this fall, too. Neal McCoy joins Darius Rucker for a duet version of Charley Pride's "Kiss an Angel Good Morning," while songwriter Jimmy Webb teams with Kris Kristofferson for the endearing "Honey Come Back." And don't miss Steve Wariner's nostalgic "'48 Ford" or Tony Joe White's irresistible "Sweet Tooth."
Finally, the band Alabama gets two rousing tribute albums -- one with mainstream country, the other in Americana. For the first, don't miss Trisha Yearwood's elegant rendering of "Forever's as Far as I'll Go," while JD McPherson delivers a sultry reading of "Why Lady Why."