With the addition of the Fayettes, Charlie Faye takes one of the sweetest voices in Americana and crafts smart soul-pop that merges the swinging, swaying sound and style of ’60s girl groups with a more modern take. Her music is current and danceable, at the forefront of a retro revival that's been going on over the past few years. I am wary of using words like "retro" (and anything that smacks of "nostalgia") but this trio blends Phil Spector's "wall of sound" with the Rosettes and the Shirelles in a way that's both lyrical and addresses "modern themes — female sexuality and gentrification among them — in a manner that doesn’t wallop the listener over the head," as Mike Seely so aptly noted in his fine April 10 story for ND. Faye wrote or co-wrote her new disc's eleven tunes. It's her overall sensibility that is fully fleshed out with vocal partners BettySoo and Akina Adderleym that makes this one lovely record. It drops June 10.
My favorite band of last year, the Honeycutters, are just about to release On the Ropes, about a year to the day after their excellent Me Oh My. Music City Roots’ Craig Havighurst says principal songwriter and vocalist Amanda Anne Platt “has a voice that’s complex, sweet, and aching. Even more potently, she writes songs that folks are citing as up there with the best of the field, such as Mary Gauthier and Lucinda Williams.” The rest of the band are road-tested with Rick Cooper, Josh Milligan, Matt Smith, and Tal Taylor. I mention them by name because they supply a tight, yet loose feeling, backing for Platt's gorgeous, unforced vocals. “Fitting in at country honky-tonks and hard-scrabble bars alike, the Honeycutters have built a reputation for high-energy shows coupled with tight harmonies and wistfully delicate lyrics of longing, heartbreak, and the American experience,” writes UK critic Alan Cackett (Editor of Maverick). There's no rope-a-dope going on here, as I have said before. They play the kind of music you'd hear on a bar's jukebox, if there were still jukeboxes out there. This one is due on May 20, but the limited edition vinyl is out now.
It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 20 years since Diana Jones' first record. Coming just weeks her import-only live album, Better Times Will Come continues her traditional and old-time sounds, but with a perspective outside herself. According to her press release, Jones says, "There are only so many songs I can write from my own particular story. I m constantly interested in other people's stories anyway. Anyone who wants to be my friend, all they have to do is tell me a story. It's an interesting thing for me to approach my own internal landscape through other people's stories. I ask myself, 'How would I write about that and be truly honest?' It gives me a way to express my emotions in a bigger way, a more interesting way." Jones is featured in the Spring issue of No Depression in print, where she talks about the lasting legacy of poet Robert Burns. Lending a hand on this new album, meanwhile, are Mary Gauthier, Nanci Griffith, and Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor. It's out now.
Cyndi Lauper is much, much more than her pop hit "Girls Just to Have Fun." The moment came for me in 2000 when she stole the Joni Mitchell tribute show with her take on "Carey." Mitchell is hard to cover, as many big names faltered later on. But Lauper has also done Three Penny Opera and many follow-up albums, including one of standards and a highly praised blues album, Memphis Blues, in 2012. Now, she turns her talents to country with Detour, featuring guests Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, and Vince Gill. It's out May 6. To paraphrase Dolly, Lauper has worn coats of many different colors -- even Broadway. Being a fan, this is the one I am looking forward to. She begins her tour in support of the album at the Mother Church on May 9.
The Hard Working Americans are still at it and their new record, Rest in Chaos, is out May 13. The band is fronted by Todd Snider, and you are either into him or not, but he's still a force to be reckoned with. Their show after the AMA Awards in 2014 at the Mercy Lounge was one for the ages. The new album features the usual band, and includes Duane Trucks. It will be interesting to hear where he takes Todd and company. Remember, In Todd We Trust.
Ashley Monroe and Squrl could not be more different, but they both have just released live records on Third Man Records. Monroe's studio recordings, both solo and with the Pistol Annies, tend to be sweetened for country music airplay. But in her live sets, she comes closer to the Americana fold. Squrl may be an acquired taste, but the band -- fronted by indie film director Jim Jarmusch -- is worth the effort. This is an excellent follow-up to the Only Lovers Left Alive soundtrack and covers the same territory as when I saw them at Big Ears last year.
Robert Ellis has been a Nashville insider favorite for years, but has yet to break out wider. That will hopefully change with his self-titled fourth album, due on June 3. Its lead single, "Drivin'," is up on NPR Music. Ellis is a hell of a guitar player -- last year he had the audacity to tackle the instrumental portions of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" and hit it out of the park.
I first saw the Avett Brothers on their first appearance at MerleFest. It was just three of them playing, and it sounded like an all-acoustic Ramones. Well, things have changed drastically since then. Their new album True Sadness is out in June.
Hayes Carll has been relatively quiet since KMAG YOYO, but Lovers and Leavers has been worth the wait. The significant changes in his life have also resulted in changes in his music. Folk Alley recorded a session with him during the 30A Songwriters Fest, and it's up on their site for your listening and viewing enjoyment. The album's available now. It's good to have him back.
It's been a long time since the hey days of J. Geils Band, but Peter Wolf continues on. Following his excellent, guest-filled Souvenirs album from 2010, A Cure for Loneliness seems like a very personal tribute to the soul music he obviously loves so much. After a recent band gig in my hometown, he regaled hotel and restaurant workers with an impromptu set featuring some of soul's greatest songs from the '60s and '70s. He even stayed over a day to play an unannounced acoustic set on Mountain Stage. The new album's been out since April 8.
Del McCoury takes on one of America’s greatest songwriters, Woody Guthrie. Though Woody’s career had concluded before Del’s began, the two are teaming up in an unlikely way, as Del has set Woody’s handwritten lyrics to music. The Woody Guthrie archive features almost 3,000 song lyrics that were either never set to music, or the music was never preserved. Woody’s daughter, Nora, asked Del to resurrect some of these tunes and the Del McCoury Band has recorded these songs for the world to hear. Del & Woody was released on April 15.
The individual members of Willie Sugarcapps have all be extremely busy since their first album, and their subsequent AMA appearance was my personal fest highlight that year. They've also done a bluegrassy EP that was available only at their shows, but their highly anticipated second album, Paradise Right Here, was released on April 15.