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Category: bluegrass music

Northern Noir Band the Sadies Leave Us With What Could Be The Best Album of 2022

Guitarist Dallas Good said that his band the Sadies‘ new album Colder Streams was the best record they’d ever made. They began recording it in 2019. Good and his bandmates had to sneak across provincial borders during the tyrannical Canadian lockdown to finally finish it in the summer of 2021. Too bad he didn’t live to see it. The lethal Covid injection killed him at 49 this past February.

The Sadies put out a ton of good albums, both under their own name as well as backing Neko Case. They started out in Americana, somewhere between Nashville gothic and punkgrass and by the time they wrapped up this one – streaming at Bandcamp – they’d gone in a more electric, psychedelic direction. Dallas Good was right: this is the Sadies best record. More than that, it’s a potent, metaphorically chilling historical document and arguably the best rock album of 2022.

The opening track, Stop and Start perfectly capsulizes the band’s sound in their final days: dense, reverb-drenched layers of jangle, clang, swirl and occasional scream from the Good brothers’ guitars over the precise, swinging groove of bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. It may or may not be a lockdown parable – either way, it offers guarded hope for a new future:

The sickness comes like a rising sun
Now your war is done, what have you become?
Are you too far down to stop right now?
You can start right now
Stop and start right now

Is it a surprise that the next track – released as a single this past winter – would be titled Message to Belial? “The dark of all ages has come,” the band harmonize somberly over a spiky thicket of reverb guitar.in this parable of a less than sympathetic devil.

Dallas Good’s lingering, twangy lines resonate over his brother Travis’ layers of distantly Beatlesque acoustic rhythm in More Alone, an increasingly angst-fueled elegy for both people and places gone forever:

In this day and age
Rage has become all the rage
We choose to behave
Like wolves left to starve in a cage
We keep going in circles around around
Spinning faster and faster and faster
Go round in the end and then start back down again
Looking forward to another disaster

So Far For So Few is a bouncy mashup of bluegrass and Flamin’ Groovies janglerock, growing more psychedelic and enveloping on the wings of Dallas’ soaring lead lines.

Fueled by stark banjo and some intricate guitar flatpicking, All the Good – with the brothers’ mom and dad Margaret and Bruce Good on harmony vocals and autoharp, respectively – is a throwback to the band’s more acoustic late 90s sound.

Jon Spencer guests on fuzz guitar on No One’s Listening, a scorching update on ominous 60s Laurel Canyon psych-folk: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you anymore,” is the crushingly ironic key to the song. You Should Be Worried, a gorgeously resonant open-tuned front-porch folk tune, has even darker foreshadowing: “I’m not worried about you, you should be worried about me,” the band harmonize.

They go back to scampering reverb-plated garage-psych rock in Better Yet, with a tantalizingly blistering acoustic/electric guitar duel. Then they turbocharge the Nashville gothic with silvery sheets of reverb guitar in Cut Up High and Dry before taking a brief, surreal detour into dub.

They keep the scampering drive going through Ginger Moon, with what’s arguably Dallas’ most savage solo here. In an eerie stroke of fate, the final cut is titled End Credits, an intricately layered, Morricone-esque southwestern gothic instrumental. How tragic to see such a great band go out at the top of their game.

Sobering Singles and Hilarious Hip-Hop for July 28

The Great Revealing is turning into the Great Unraveling, mighty fast. At this point it looks like the “chew toys,” as Catherine Austin Fitts calls bureaucrats like Birx and Dr. Faulty, are being thrown to the wolves, i.e. us. In the meantime, are we staring down a smallpox epidemic incubated in the population who caught VAIDS from the Covid shot? Stay tuned.

And the memes and videos are flying fast and furious. About 25 minutes of black comedy and videos today. As usual, click on artist or author names for their webpages, click on titles for audio and video – and make sure you use Brave or another browser with an ad blocker since a lot of the videos are at youtube.

Satirist and investigator Sage Hana has been putting out an infrequent but brilliantly edited series of videos for a bunch of mostly well-known songs. This is not one of them: it’s a Bonnie Tyler single from the 80s. And this salute to the heroes of the past twenty-nine months is not comedy. Anything but.

Hana’s Substack has also been a goldmine for good memes – for example, this Ronald McDonald – and this timely video of Eric Idle doing Henry Kissinger, from the 1980 Monty Python album Contractual Obligation.

Here’s the best-ever video for Anitra’s Dance, the immortal gothic theme from Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King. It’s all about diminishing returns. Scroll down and laugh if you can.

Embattled New Zealand head of state Jacinda Ardern wants you to know that “We will continue to be your single source of truth.” In her own words, via Mathew Aldred‘s must-read Substack.

Let’s shift gears to hip-hop, first with Who’s My Name, by “Sniff Sleepy,” the cadaver-in-chief in his own words, artfully and pseudonymously edited, via El Gato Malo. Indestructible, by RC feat. Hailey Lewis makes a good segue, with some beautiful footage from the Canadian Freedom Convoy from this past winter

Americana guitarist Molly Tuttle shows off some sweet flatpicking, alongside her dad Jack on mandolin in Grass Valley, her shout-out to large crowds of people who get together and exhale CO2 in harmony around carbon-consuming structures like campfires…a time-honored tradition.

Singer Lisa Tingle’s band the Caughtery jangle and clang through The Uninvited, from darkly sparkling electric bluegrass in a Walkabouts vein to a stomp toward the stadium. A lockdown parable? You decide.

Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters have just released Persephone, a metaphorically-loaded mashup of the Peter Gunne theme and thrashy metal for those of us who may feel “owned but not possessed” during this twisted time in history.

Lately, it’s been the custom here to wind up a page of singles with something funny, but today it’s time to get serious. Watch New York State Assembly speaker Carl Heastie strong-arm a member of the New York State legislature to change his vote, on video, on June 13th, 2019 to repeal religious exemptions to vaccination. Coincidentally, the previous day Merck had announced the construction of a big pharma plant in the Albany area. Thanks to Dr. Meryl Nass for passing this along.

Hilary Hawke Brings Her Fresh, Original Oldtime-Flavored Banjo Tunes to the Lower East Side

Banjo player Hilary Hawke has been on the front lines of the New York Americana and oldtimey scenes since the early teens. But unlike a lot of hotshot pickers, she’s more about tunes and tunesmithing than blistering banjo breakdowns. She’s opening an excellent triplebill tomorrow night, July 26 at 7 PM at the downstairs room at the Rockwood. Acoustic songwriter Mali Obomsawin, frontwoman of politically-inspired Boston Americana group Lula Wiles and fearless gospel/blues/oldtimey songwriter Queen Esther follow on the bill. It’s not clear who’s playing when, but everybody on the bill is worth hearing. Cover is $15.

Hawke’s new album LilyGild is streaming at Bandcamp. True to the theme of the album, which is “why overdo it,” more or less, Hawke chooses her spots throughout a mix of seven instrumental and a classic folk song,  joined by Reed Stutz on guitar. Her songs are fresh and translucent, but she loves unexpected tempo shifts and syncopation. She also gets a pretty amazing amount of resonance out of her axe, squeezing every millisecond of sustain out of the strings.

The first track is Three Snakes, a catchy but rhythmically labyrinthine dance tune with a goofy little interlude that’s too good to spoil. Once in awhile, Stutz will pick his way up with a little bassline to follow Hawke’s incisively syncopated picking.

Granddad’s Favorite//Fort Smith Breakdown, a diptych, has a couple of layers of guitar mingling with Hawke’s spacious picking, then the two go doublespeed on the way out. Crossing the River has a moody, unsettled undercurrent in contrast with Stutz’s steady forward drive. Then Hawke and Stutz move to the mic for a rustically waltzing version of Jack of Diamonds.

Her spiky phrases contrast with sleek, slithery turnaruonds in the aptly titled Happy Hollow. Beehive’s Chorus is the most modern-sounding number here: it could be a brief, early Jayme Stone tune. Hawke and Stutz wind up the album with the title track, packed with deft, wide-angle soul chords, slides and hammer-ons. Who needs to gild the lily when you have music like this.

What’s more, Hawke mentions on the Bandcamp page that these instrumentals are part of a collection that also includes a series of darker, cinematic pieces for electronic keys and banjo. Hopefully someday we’ll get to hear those too.

A Lustrous Solo Album From Dobro Stylist Abbie Gardner

Abbie Gardner is one of the most distinctive dobro players in  Americana. She has a seemingly effortless grace and otherworldly precision on an instrument that often bedevils other acoustic guitarslingers. Despite her vaunted technique, she plays with a remarkable economy of notes. She may be best known as a member of well-loved harmony trio Red Molly. but she had fearsome chops before she joined that band. Her new solo album DobroSinger is streaming at Bandcamp

As with her other solo records, almost all the tunes are originals. The opening number, Down the Mountain is a steady coal-mining blues. Gardner’s liquid chords contrast with her stiletto-articulate fingerpicking and slithery slide lines. She sings in an expressive down-home delivery equally informed by oldschool gospel, blues and front-porch folk music.

The second track, Only All the Time is more enigmatic, a stripped-down throwback to the alt-country sounds of the 90s. Gardner slows down for See You Again, part sophisticated blues ballad, part country waltz, with a spare, suspenseful solo on the way out. Born in the City has more of Gardner’s signature, silken legato: the gist of the song is that urban people stick together just as tightly as country folks do.

Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if the next song, Three Quarter Time was in, say, 7/8? It actually isn’t: it’s in 6/8! The intimate arrangement is an artful approach to what’s essentially a vintage Memphis-style soul ballad. Gardner digs in hard for a wicked but nuanced vibrato for a starkly original, grim take of Cypress Tree Blues. Then she flips the script with the wryly aphoristic Too Many Kisses, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Amy Allison songbook.

The brisk, bouncily swinging Honky Tonk Song is the one number here where an overdubbed rhythm track would have come in handy: the absence of a band isn’t an issue anywhere else. Gardner interrupts the playful mood for the stark, understatedly harrowing memoir When We Were Kids: in a quiet way, it’s the most stunning song on the album.

Gardner closes the record with a couple of covers. The first one is a spacious, pouncing version of Those Memories of You, a minor hit for Pam Tillis in the mid-80s. And Gardner reinvents the proto-Lynchian Jo Stafford hit You Belong to Me with a distant, uneasily dreamy feel. If you play guitar, there’s plenty of inspiration here for you to take your chops to the next level. If you don’t, it’s a characteristically sharp, smart Americana record.

Violinist Lily Henley Reinvents Haunting, Ironic Ancient Ladino Folk Tunes

Like most good violinists, Lily Henley has been called on to play all sorts of different styles of music. She got her start in New York playing bluegrass and front-porch folk, but also gravitated toward klezmer music. On her latest album Oras Dezaoradas – streaming at Bandcamp – she takes a deep dive into original Ladino songcraft.

There’s actually plenty of historical precedent for Henley’s decision to take a bunch of old ballads and set them to new melodies: until the advent of recording technology, folk musicians had been doing the same thing, largely uncredited, for thousands of years. One of the main themes that runs through the record is female empowerment, underscoring how important women musicians have been in keeping the tradition of Sephardic Spanish Jewish music alive since the terror of the Inquisition.

For the uninitiated, Ladino is to Spanish what ebonics are to English, more than what Yiddish is to German, so Spanish speakers won’t have a hard time getting the gist of these songs. Henley sings the first of several new versions of centuries-old lyrics with clarity and an airy understatement: the humor and irony in these songs is no less resonant today. The wistful, gently swaying tale that she opens the album with is a prime example, a mother confiding to her child that dad is sneaking home in the middle of the night from his girlfriend’s place. Henley fingerpicks a delicate lattice of guitar on this one; Duncan Wickel adds airy, atmospheric fiddle over the terse pulse of bassist Haggai Cohen-Milo.

Henley and Wickel swap instruments for a mashup of klezmer and Appalachia on the second track, jumping from a brightly waltzing intro to a biting, dancing escape anthem. Henley follows that with a defiant party-girl’s tale set to stark, bouncing minor-key tune with Wickel’s cello front and center.

There’s a cruel undercurrent to the broodingly fingerpicked, minor-key Alta Alta Va La Luna – “how high the moon,” basically. It’s a mother telling her child that they might be better off if they hadn’t been born. From there Henly goes back toward brisk, moody bluegrass for Arvoles Lloran Por Lluvia (Trees Cry For Rain), a bitter tale of exile common in much of diasporic Ladino music.

The album’s title track – meaning “Timeless Clock” – features the first of Henley’s original Ladino lyrics, a melancholy if energetically picked seaside tableau echoing a pervasive sense of abandonment. Esta Noche Te Amare, with equal hints of simmering flamenco drama and rustic Americana, is a fabulistic tale of a fair young maiden who sees her knight in shining armor revealed for what he really is.

The three musicians bounce darkly through the album’s lone instrumental, Muza de la Kozima: the acidic bite of the violin and cello is luscious. In La Galud, Henley paints an aching portrait of celebrations and traditions left behind, maybe for forever, set to a fast, steady waltz. She winds up the album, her anguished voice reaching for the rafters over a bass drone, a young woman recounting her boyfriend’s grim demise. It’s the most distinctly klezmer-adjacent melody here and a spine-tingling closer to this fascinating, imaginative record.

Slashingly Lyrical, Darkly Amusing New Americana From Goodnight, Texas

Goodnight, Texas play sharply lyrical Americana with a mix of oldtime acoustic instrumentation and snarling electric guitars. Frontmen Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf can both spin a great yarn and have a sense of humor. Is their new album How Long Will It Take Them to Die – streaming at Bandcamp – a reflection on the plandemic? Actually not. It’s a mix of cynically amusing pre-bluegrass sounds, bristling highway rock and Nashville gothic. It’s also the best album of the year so far for 2022.

The first track is Neighborhoods, a 19th century front porch folk march with imaginative acoustic/electric production values. It’s a Tom Waits down-and-out scenario without the cliches:

My days are little neighborhoods where different people live
Never two to intertwine, not a damn to give
For anyone or anything outside of what they know
My days are little neighborhoods and in between I go

Hypothermic is a Nashville gothic masterpiece, a creepy fugitive’s tale and an instant contender for best song of 2022:

Gas up
With a credit card
And an alias
That I learned this morning
Dead flies
Round the heat lamp
No receipt, please
Hide face from the camera
Peel out
On a snowbank
But I landed
And I’m back on the highway
Northbound
To Alaska
Hypothermic
Where the sun can’t find me

The band follow that with Gotta Get Goin’, a funny stomping open-tuned oldtime string band tune with a surprise ending. They take a wryly choogling boogie tune into newgrass territory in Borrowed Time: Chuck Berry and Tony Trischka make a better mashup than you might expect.

The stark down-and-out ballad I’d Rather Not is a desperado scenario as Wilco would have done it in the late 90s. Don’t Let ‘Em Get You could be a ramshackle early Okkervil River-style revolutionary anthem, or could be lockdown-specific: “Comes a day when they shed their skins and everything you ever caught up in believing in.”

Jane, Come Down From Your Room, a sad country waltz, is a witheringly detailed portrait of trans-generational trauma. Lead player Adam Nash’s pedal steel sails over the spare layers of acoustic guitars and banjo in To Where You’re Going, bassist Chris Sugiura and drummer Scott Griffin Padden holding the shambling tune on the rails.

Solstice Days – “When the sky was overcast, and the present felt like the past, walking down a road that says Do Not Enter” – has a slow sway and a persistent sense of longing. The closest track to standard-issue 90s alt-country here is Sarcophagus: “Was it time for for examining or was it time for celebration?” is the operative question.

“If I’m gonna catch hell for speaking my mind, I might as well make it count,” is the big message in the album’s centerpiece, Dead Middle, a metaphorically loaded highway narrative which absolutely nails the existential questions and divergent realities screaming out for resolution in 2022. The concluding title track turns out to be a cynically humorous number with lingering hints of western swing.

Celebrating a Bluegrass Icon With a Massive 101-Track Compilation

Who wouldn’t want to listen to a hundred tracks worth of Doc Watson? There are actually 101 songs on the latest compilation of the bluegrass icon’s massive output, Life’s Work: A Retrospective, streaming at Spotify. It’s got everything that made Watson a first-ballot Country Music Hall of Famer and one of the best-loved Americana artists of all time.

He may have been best known for his whirlwind, seemingly effortless flatpicking, and this playlist has plenty of that, including some choice live takes. Watson follows his signature showstopper Tickling the Strings with a similarly high-voltage version of Black Mountain Rag. His wind-tunnel legato picking in Southbound and Dill Pickle Rag, just to name a couple of songs here, will take your breath away.

But there’s much more. Pulling this playlist together was a herculean effort. Watson’s collaborations with other artists are represented on several tracks, notably when he harmonizes with Bill Monroe on Monroe’s first big bluegrass hit, the fire-and-brimstone waltz What Would You Give in Exchange For Your Soul. Many of these songs draw a straight line back from Appalachia to their origins in the British isles: case in point, the wistfully oldtimey waltz Storms on the Ocean, with Jean Ritchie.

There are several tracks with his guitarist son Merle (who died tragically and inspired the elder Watson to found Merlefest, the annual bluegrass festival), from the country gospel hymn We Shall All Be Reunited, to an intricate take of the murder ballad Banks of the Ohio. Doc Watson was also a talented banjo player, and there are a bunch of banjo tunes here, including Rambling Hobo, which was the first song his dad taught him on the instrument.

There are all kinds of unexpected treats here. There’s My Little Woman, You’re So Sweet, a minor-key blues that Elvis ended up appropriating for Heartbreak Hotel. The Jack Williams Band does a swinging, jangly electric version of the ominous old spiritual, Pharaoh with Watson out in front.

There’s a goofy murder ballad, Wanted Man, the considerably creepier Little Omie Wise. and the even more grimly detailed I Saw a Man at Close of Day, about a drunk who kills his family. And in Watson’s version of Tom Dooley, the condemned man is innocent.

The history here runs deep. Many of these songs underscore the cross-pollination between 19th century black and white folk music, including a laid-back bluegrass take of Sittin on Top of the World, a spare cowboy variant on St. James Infirmary and one of the scores of versions of John Henry. In this one, the guy beats the steam drill and lives to tell the tale.

The tracks are chronological. As the collection goes on, Watson’s voice grows flintier, and some cheesy material and subpar collaborators occasionally make an appearance But his chops are always miles ahead of the rest of the band, whoever they are.

The very first song in this collection is a digitized, lo-fi mono field recording of the country gospel standard The Precious Jewel. The clarity of the young Watson’s voice, even in this rough mix, is breathtaking; otherwise, it’s impossible to tell if he’s playing an acoustic or electric guitar. The song cuts off suddenly at the end. How little audience recordings have changed over the years.

A Colorfully Lyrical, Fast-Fingered Songwriter on the High Plains

Billy Lurken is the rare Americana songwriter who’s also a hell of a lead guitarist. His axe is acoustic. He gets a much bigger sound out of his guitar than most guys who usually play solo, and does the same on the banjo. He’s just as strong at bluegrass-style flatpicking as he is with the big jazzy chords of western swing and his own high-voltage take on the blues. He’s also a vivid chronicler of the anomie and quiet desperation everyday people face in Flyover America. Born in Minnesota and raised in South Dakota, he’s a fixture on the high plains circuit. His next gig is a free outdoor show on Sept 19 at 2 PM at Wilde Prairie Winery, 48052 259th St. in Brandon, South Dakota.

Lurken’s songs pick up on the little details but also capture the big picture. “It’s a Monday-through-Friday sort of dying” is one of the key lines in the Studs Terkel-influenced number he opened with on a segment of the No Cover, No Minimum show on South Dakota Public tv which you can stream here.

Movin’ On is a showcase for Lurken’s fast fingers on the frets: it’s a brisk early 50s style western swing-infused boogie about how the years can take their toll on a couple.

One of his most memorable story-songs is Home, a fast-picked chronicle of something less than bliss on the blue-collar domestic front. For all the detail – the dust-streaked Cadillac, the stoned girl on the back porch with her “Audrey Hepburn shades” – it’s what Lurken doesn’t say that packs the biggest punch.

And he has upbeat, optimistic songs to balance out the gloomy ones. There’s Girl in the Flowered Dress, a showcase for his chops. Tumbleweed, a studio recording, has a luscious, bluegrass-infused mix of guitar and banjo. And Rider, a cowboy tune, is a stark, nimbly fingerpicked Jimmie Rodgers-style blues.

If it might seem odd that a blog which has advocated for live music throughout the five boroughs of New York might be paying so much attention to South Dakota, that’s because South Dakota is a free state. There’s no apartheid there, no spyware required to go indoors at venues, restaurants and bars. That’s the way it is throughout the rest of the free states: Florida, Texas and across the plains. America’s Frontline Doctors have filed a civil rights lawsuit to overturn Mayor Bill DiBozo’s evil, unconstitutional edict, and at the moment a lot of businesses aren’t enforcing it. Until we succeed in liberating ourselves, you may see more of what’s happening in the land of “Great Faces, Great Places” here.

Trans-Global Entertainment With Accordion and Guitar in Downtown Brooklyn

Erica Mancini is an eclectically talented accordionist with a background equally informed by jazz, tango, cumbia and Americana, to name a few styles. She sings in a high, crystalline jazz voice and is a master of passing tones on the keys. Smokey Hormel was Johnny Cash’s last lead guitarist, but also has a thing for Brazilian music and jazz. The two make a good team. Playing a duo set at the little pedestrian mall where Willoughby meets Pearl Street in downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday afternoon, they treated a sunstruck lunchtime crowd to a major portion of the innumerable (some would say unlimited) styles suited to their two instruments.

Mancini sang the opening number, a torchy Brazilian tune, in Portuguese. Later on, she spun counterintuitive cascades through a couple of rustic Colombian coastal cumbia instrumentals.

Hormel was especially at home, both voicewise and fingerpicking his vintage National Steel model, on a couple of Hank Williams songs and a jaunty, bittersweet duet with Mancini on the old Lefty Frizzell country hit Cigarettes and Coffee Blues. But he also had fun with an English translation of what he called a Brazilian cowboy tune.

Mancini invited up a friend to sing fetching Carter Family-style harmonies on I’ll Fly Away and then an extended, playful version of Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen. Mancini’s version of another klezmer favorite, Comes Love, was just as wryly cheery. The two didn’t do any Romany swing, or tango, or Mexican banda music, but this was just the first set. It’s anybody’s guess how many other cultures they dipped their voices into in the next hour.

The next lunchtime show on the little plaza is Aug 17 at noon with acoustic fingerstyle delta blues guitarist Noe Socha. Mancini’s next gig is tomorrow night, Aug 13 at 8 PM at Sunny’s in Red Hook, her usual home base these days. Hormel is also at Sunny’s on Aug 18 at 8 with his western swing band.

Ariana Hellerman, the onetime publisher of Ariana’s List, a fantastic guide to live music and summer festivals, runs the series here. In addition to advocating for live music, she also has a passion for dance and is especially proud of the dance series she’s booking further down the Fulton Mall at Albee Square, a series of performances featuring styles from around the world that continues into the fall.

Revisiting Classic, Purist Americana and Bluegrass From Martha Spencer

Martha Spencer sings in a high soprano voice with lonesome country vibrato, backed by an inspired, thoughtful blend of flatpicked guitar, banjo, fiddle and bass. That description could fit thousands and thousands of Americana songbirds, but Spencer sings and writes from the point of view of someone who grew up immersed in classic country and bluegrass music with her  family’s Virginia group, the Whitetop Mountain Band. Her 2018 debut album as a solo artist is still up at Bandcamp. The sound is totally 1950s, whether she’s doing oldschool C&W, bluegrass, a blues or a ballad. She winds a good yarn and has a sharp sense of humor.

She and the band – a shifting cast that include but are not limited to guitarists Frank Rische and Ersel Fletcher,, bassist Debbie Bramer, fiddler Billy Hurt, Jr and banjo player Alex Leach –  open the album with Blue Ridge Mountain Lullaby, a fond childhood reminiscence of falling asleep while the ‘rents are playing all the old songs. My Heart Says Yes is a simple, catchy mashup of bluegrass and indie rock: totally Hoboken, 1996. Spencer’s voice takes on extra bite, way up the scale in the rockabilly tune Hard Headed Woman, amped up with growling electric guitar and spiraling electric honkytonk piano.

Spencer blends Patsy Cline nuance and Dolly Parton plaintiveness in the aching, sad ballad The Last Leaves. After that the band pick up the pace in Let the Wild Stay Free, a smartly aphoristic bluegrass tune.

When Spencer bends her way up to those blue notes in Chickens Coming Home to Roost Tonight, it’s clear she means business, echoed by the understatedly slashing bluesy guitar solo.  She keeps that strong-willed point of view front and center in Rambling Woman: over spiky banjo and fiddle, she makes it clear she’s not ready to settle down.

Wishful Thinking comes across as an Appalachian flavored acoustic take on a peak era 40s/50s Kitty Wells-style ballad. After that, Spencer flips the script with Ruby, a spare, rustic Virginia reel. Then she and the band slow things down again with Cold Winter Lingers On, a classic C&W breakup duet spiced with pedal steel and countrypolitan guitar.

They bring up the energy again with the oldtime country gospel tune Jonah and follow that with the wry hillbilly boogie No Help Wanted.

Tree of Heaven is deceptively pretty: it turns out to be Spencer’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. She winds up the album with the brisk banjo tune Rambling Hobo. Fans of real, purist country and bluegrass – the genuine article, not the legions of indie rock boys trying to wrap their dainty fingers around acoustic instruments – will love this stuff.