Album Reviews

Reviews of recent albums

Scruffy the Cat - The Good Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings 1984-1990

This late-80s Boston band barely managed to break beyond college radio adoration, but with their catalog back in print alongside this disc of previously unreleased demos, live-in-the-studio performances and unused session tracks, it’s a great opportunity for reappraisal. The group’s 1987 debut, Tiny Days, brought critical praise for its country-tinged Boston rock, while the less scruffy 1989 follow-up, Moons of Jupiter, garnered mixed reactions to its tighter productions and pop sounds. Whether or not the band was actively striving for broader success, this disc of material spanning the years...

Hillbilly Casino - Hang Your Stockings ... Say Your Prayers

Hillbilly Casino is celebrated for both its brawny fix on roots sensibilities and principled insistence on pulling hardwood-rockin' into modern times. "Brutal honky tonk," they call it. "I defy you to find five other bands in the U.S. that can play Hank Sr. back-to-back with Motorhead, back-to-back with Ernest Tubb, back-to-back with Tex Ritter, back-to-back with the Ramones," formidable slap-bassist Geoff Firebaugh once declared. Indeed, the four-man rock boppin' juggernaut has long been a favorite of average working folks, the sort who swarm the honky tonk dance floors of...

Emma Hill - Denali

Alaskan singer-songwriter Emma Hill has released a new ten-song indie folk and alt-country album on her own Kuskokwim Records. Denali, the follow-up to 2013's The Black and Wretched Blue, features co-writer, multi-instrumentalist and project mainstay Bryan Daste, as well as a handful of other players, all of whose efforts go towards making this one of Hill's most impressively composed and finely executed records to date. With her impossibly gorgeous singing voice over natural and flowing song structures that are built with tools such as acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, pedal steel, banjo,...

The Eastern - The Territory

Perhaps it should have been obvious, given the fact that the opening track is nearly seven minutes long, but the latest album by one of New Zealand's  most talented roots bands, The Eastern, is nothing short of epic. With a running time of 70 minutes, and 15 songs (only five of which are under four minutes in length) that tackle people, politics, places and prejudice, The Territory is one of the meatiest albums of the year – by any artist, from any country – filled with songs whose tone and subject matter set it apart from a considerable number of other records with a...