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Monday, January 15, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
January 14, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

If you've spent some time with our ROUTES-cast below (*), you know I'm fond of A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster.  That's our release calendar to which you can connect via the link to the right.  I'll always say that it'll assure you'll never miss another obscure roots music release.  Heh.  Anyway, Routes & Branches is driven by novelty, focused on the frontiers of our kind of music.  And this time of year we begin to get a good sense of what our Spring might sound like.  So for this week's posting I thought we'd focus on what's forthcoming, some of the stuff I'm looking forward to most.  There's a real good chance I'll devote a full review to most if not all of these, once I have access to the complete CD.  Until then, some thoughts on what we've heard to date.

HC McEntire, Lionheart  (Merge, Jan 26)  I loved both Miracle Temple and How to Dance, Mount Moriah's last couple records.  File them alongside fellow North Carolinian Hiss Golden Messenger for smart, tuneful roots with a shot of true soul.  McEntire's debut solo record reportedly amplifies that soul, while speaking more boldly as a lesbian in the Southern US.  She might be our next Alynda Lee Segarra.  Extra heft is contributed by studio guests Tift Merritt, Angel Olsen, Phil Cook and others.

What we've heard: "A Lamb A Dove", "Quartz in the Valley"

Mike & the Moonpies, Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (Moonpies, Feb 2)  The last couple years have seen Austin's Mike Harmeier and co. increasingly praised for their steady strength as a live act.  Their fifth studio set seeks to package that honky tonk spirit, favoring spark and drive over studio perfection.  "Beaches of Biloxi" and "Road Crew" (and their recent single, "Country Music is Dead") find the Moonpies staking their claim more confidently than ever before.

What we've heard: "Beaches of Biloxi", "Road Crew"

Richmond Fontaine, Don't Skip Out on Me  (Fluff & Gravy, Feb 2)  With the release of 2016's You Can't Go Back ... Willy Vlautin and his band packed up the plantation.  In light of the pending publication of the frontman's new novel, the band came back together to record an instrumental soundtrack to the book of the same name.  I've had the privilege of hearing the whole CD, but haven't gotten my hands on the novel.  That said, Richmond Fontaine have become expert at generating a mood or painting a picture using nothing more than a pedal steel and guitars.

What we've heard:  "Horace Hopper", "Dream of the City and the City Itself"

Caleb Caudle, Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, Feb 23)  Probably looking forward to this collection more than any other during these early days of the year.  On the heels of Paint Another Layer and Carolina Ghost, this could be his moment to shine.  To my ear, Caudle plays at the intersection of Justin Townes Earle and Jason Isbell, demonstrated a masterful way with a simple song.  He's recently commented that Ghost is about as country as he'll get, and early singles hint at some new musical directions (plus, producer Jon Ashley's resume features work with Hiss Golden Messenger and War on Drugs).

What we've heard:  "Empty Arms", "Love That's Wild"

Sue Foley, Ice Queen  (Stony Plain, Mar 2)  This one's a surprise even for me.  The Canadian Foley (yeah, no relation) has been a student of fellow blues guitarists since her teen years.  I've been trying to avoid the blues since I was a teenager.  So ...  But Foley's a fine writer whose talent overflows the genre buckets, and a singer whose roadworn and weary voice can move mountains.  Guests include folks she's admired and with whom she's collaborated during her years in Austin, such as Billy Gibbons, Jimmie Vaughan and Charlie Sexton.

What we've heard: "Come to Me"

6 String Drag, Top of the World  (Schoolkids, Mar 9)  This Episode features a song from a remastered 1997 record originally produced by Steve Earle.  Way back then, Kenny Roby and Rob Keller helped birth what we know today as After many years on the shelf, the stuff still sounds sweet and slightly dangerous.  This will be their second project to hit shelves following the band's hiatus of nearly 2 decades.

What we've heard:  nada

... and so very many more!  Calexico, Fruition, Ruby Boots, JD Wilkes, Erika Wennerstrom, American Aquarium, Austin Lucas (2 albums!) ...

- Ron Pope, "Southern Cross" Ron Pope & the Nighthawks  (Brooklyn Basement, 16)
- Ron Pope, "Figure it Out" Worktapes  (Brooklyn Basement, 18)  D
^- Caleb Caudle, "Love That's Wild" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Anderson East, "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
^ Sue Foley w/Charlie Sexton, "Come to Me" Ice Queen  (Stony Plain, 18)
- Danny & the Champions of the World, "Gotta Get Things Right in My Life" Brilliant Light  (Loose, 17)
- Fruition, "Northern Town" Watching it All Fall Apart  (LoHi, 18)
- Wood Brothers, "Happiness Jones" One Drop of Truth  (Honey Jar, 18)
- Townes Van Zandt, "St John the Gambler" Our Mother the Mountain  (Fat Possum, 69)
- Nathaninel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "You Worry Me" Tearing at the Seams  (Concord, 18)  D
- Samantha Fish, "American Dream" Belle of the West  (RufRecords, 17)  D
- Marie/Lepanto, "Famished Raven" Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Low Anthem, "Ghost Woman Blues" Smart Flesh  (Nonesuch, 10)
-^ 6 String Drag, "Bottle of Blues" High Hat  (Schoolkids, 97/18)  D
- Erika Wennerstrom, "Extraordinary Love" Sweet Unknown  (Partisan, 18)  D
- Jason Boland & the Stragglers, "Proud Souls" Pearl Snaps  (Proud Souls, 99)
^ Richmond Fontaine, "Dream of the City and the City Itself" Don't Skip Out On Me  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)
- Kim Richey w/Chuck Prophet, "Whistle on Occasion" Edgeland  (Yep Roc, 18)  D
^ Mike & the Moonpies, "Road Crew" Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (Moonpies, 18)
- Jeff Hyde, "Henry Ford" Norman Rockwell World  (Hyde, 18)  D
- Drag the River, "Waste of Time Valentine" Drag the River  (Xtra Mile, 13)
- Ryan Bingham, "How Shall a Sparrow Fly" Hostiles (Sndtk)  (Axster Bingham, 18)  D
- First Aid Kit, "Ruins" Ruins  (Columbia, 18)
- Angel Olsen, "Tougher Than the Rest" Phases  (Jagjaguwar, 18)
^ HC McEntire, "Quartz in the Valley" Lionheart  (Merge, 18)
- Richard Buckner, "Born Into Giving It Up" Impasse  (Merge, 02)
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "May Your Kindness Remain" May Your Kindness Remain  (Mama Bird, 18)  D
- Alela Diane, "Ether & Wood" Cusp  (Alela, 18)
- Chris Knight, "Hard Edges" Trailer Tapes  (Drifter's Church, 07)
- Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, "November Down" Don't Go Baby  (Cornelius Chapel, 17)

(*)  I don't think I know anybody who listens to my podcast.  I can see numbers, and am reassured that folks continue to visit our site in record numbers, but nobody's ever told me that they're here, that they're clicking on the Spotify link below to stream the weekly ROUTES-cast.  I still consider this a writing and review site, enhanced with the option of listening.  And I'm assuming most who visit Routes & Branches see it that way, too.  But much of my weekly prep (and all of my weekly "budget"), is spent prepping what lies below.  At this point, I'm too invested to pull out of the ROUTES-casting business, and I'm confident it's a quality-ish product.  So I'd encourage you to give it a spin if you haven't to date.  Let me know what you hear, via comment or email to  It matters to me that this is a conversation rather than a lecture.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
January 8, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

It's been some time since I've so enthusiastically received the news of a new record.  Two artists who have largely defined the vibe of Routes & Branches over the past couple years, collaborating on a project with such an evocative sound.  Will Johnson has paired to date with Jason Molina, Vic Chesnutt, M Ward, Jay Farrar and many more, not to mention his catalog with South San Gabriel and Centro-Matic.  Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster has produced three CDs with Water Liars, as well as last year's superb Constant Stranger solo set.  Together they perform as Marie/Lepanto, and are on the verge of releasing a remarkable project called Tenkiller (Big Legal Mess, January 26).

The duo discovered their common musical ground when Water Liars opened for Centro-Matic during the band's farewell tour.  Marie/Lepanto reportedly earned its moniker in tribute to a roadsign between SE Missouri and W Arkansas where Johnson and Kinkel-Schuster came of age, respectively.  The primary sessions were set to tape at Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis.

Tenkiller succeeds in advancing the respective sonic palette of both artists, reigning in Johnson's tendency for sprawl 'n squall (not complaining), while simultaneously pushing the limits of Kinkel-Schuster's quieter acoustic work (still not complaining).   Aside from producer Jeff Powell, the duo are responsible for every bit of Tenkiller's thick, rich sound, from writing and playing to sharing the vocals. The songs respect the unique spirit of both, without sounding fractured or schizophrenic.

"Inverness" is Tenkiller's crunchy and discordant beast, Crazy Horse guitars and garage worthy drumming propelling the track.  A reckless electric solo and coda push the piece towards "12", in all the most lovely and satisfying ways.  The dual guitars of "High Desert" both chime and grind, riding a blues riff and puzzling over a riddle: Your love is a problem / A knot I can't untie / A map I can't follow / A sum that won't divide.

The term "high lonesome sound" has already been trademarked by bluegrass, but it's an apt descriptor for what's going on throughout Tenkiller.  The harmonies shared between Johnson and Kinkel-Schuster will never be mistaken for the Louvins, but the tension created can be haunting on songs like "Simple Scenes".  "Patient Patient Man" patiently unfolds from an initially understated black key reflection into guitars ringing into an empty sky.

Instrumentally, moments of noise are balanced by relative hush.  And even when the guitars, piano and percussion are allowed more quiet space in which to drift, the songs err towards the melodic and purposeful.  The intimate "Famished Raven" evokes the dark night blues of Jason Molina, emerging as another watermark in Will Johnson's vast catalog.  When the night it comes devouring / Like some tired famished raven seething / Quick to the punch, and then just maybe / You will start to see / Just what you need.

Also on our generous plate this Episode is Ain't It Like the Cosmos (Last Chance, Mar 9), a new solo project by Kinkel-Schuster's foil in Water Liars, Andrew Bryant.  Bryant's is the louder and more direct of these projects, working wonders with more traditional song structures.

He lays out his mission on "Practical Man": I used to be the type to hide my mistakes / Bury them in a mix of guitars and bass / But the older I get the more I want them in my face / I'm a practical man at the end of the day.

But let's backtrack a couple cuts to the record's opener, "Robert Downey Jr's Scars".  With charcoal black guitars that sputter in and out of the picture, it's a remarkable piece that is alternately vulnerable and hammer-heavy.  It also rivals the recent work of Mark Kozelek for quotidian detail:  Iron Man was on the tv / Poured myself another beer / Thinking 'bout all the pain that's in my heart / Thinking 'bout Robert Downey Jr's scars / And man I know just what it takes / Yeah man I know just what it takes / To start again.

Cosmos is bold in its soul mining and revelation.  Bryant sidesteps the troubled shadow of his forebear on "I Am Not My Father's Son", ticking off his conscious efforts to avoid the sins of the father.  The refrain "I am not my father's son" can be heard as both a declaration and a mantra, a reminder-to-self that things will be different.  As with Tenkiller, Cosmos features moments of great instrumental drama, though Bryant is more likely to add subtle studio touches and synth textures to achieve his sonic goals.

That said, there are moments of more straightforward Southern rock 'n soul.  "Practical Man" mines an Isbell-esque vein, heavy and tuneful guitars sharing the scene with thoughtful lyrics and a gradual build that will catch most in its path.  "I Take Pride" offers a similar return:  I take pride in my work / I take pride in my hurt / I take pride in my word / And I'll say what I mean for what that's worth.

 Where Marie/Lepanto's lyrics tend towards a more poetic expression, on tunes like "Pay Your Rent" Bryant shows himself to be a much more direct communicator, even to the point of harsh self-deprecation.  Above lazy pedal steel and a strummed acoustic:  No one needs your story, it's so contrived / No there's nothing really special in there / There's nothing really special in your mind / So just go to work and pay your rent / Try to love yourself and live with it.

"Bittersweet" is a lovely ode to Bryant's beloved Mississippi:  Lord ain't it bittersweet / This place we call our home / Ain't it like the cosmos / To light up the magnolias at dawn.  It's a fleeting but passionate statement, heartbreaking in its simplicity.

Tenkiller and Ain't It Like the Cosmos  - records that do justice to the legacy of artists like Jason Molina and Mark Kozelek and Richard Buckner, folks who believe in and practice the rhythm and sound of words.  Writers who map the shadows of day-to-day life, while creating pure poetry from its familiar bits and pieces. While the release date for Andrew Bryant's record was actually bumped back to March 9, these are tremendous albums with which to launch our 2018 year in posts.

- Black Keys, "Never Gonna Give You Up" Brothers  (Nonesuch, 10)
- Dan Auerbach, "Cellophane Girl" single  (Easy Eye, 18)  D
- Ruby Boots, "It's So Cruel" Don't Talk About It  (Bloodshot, 18)
- JD Wilkes, "Walk Between the Raindrops" Fire Dream  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Anderson East, "Girlfriend" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
- Marah, "Walt Whitman Bridge" If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry  (Yep Roc, 05)
- Rodney Crowell, "Shake Your Money Maker" Strange Angels: In Flight With Elmore James  (Sylvan Songs, 18)  D
- Sue Foley w/Charlie Sexton, "Come To Me" Ice Queen  (Stony Plain, 18)  D
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Child of God" Soul Mine  (Ellenburg, 17)
- Pearl Charles, "Sleepless Dreamer" Sleepless Dreamer  (Kanine, 18)  D
- Railbenders, "Bourbon County Line" Medicine Show  (Railbenders, 17)  D
^ Marie/Lepanto, "Inverness" Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Crooked Fingers, "New Drink for the Old Drunk" Crooked Fingers  (Merge, 00)
- Caleb Caudle, "Love That's Wild" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- John K Samson, "Prayer for Ruby Elm" Winter Wheat  (Anti, 16)
- James McMurtry, "State of the Union" single  (McMurtry, 18)  D
- Mike & the Moonpies, "Beaches of Biloxi" Steak Night at the Prairie Rose  (Moonpies, 18)  D
- Craig Gerdes, "Slide Off Your Satin Sheets" Smokin' Drinkin' & Gamblin'  (Sol, 18)  D
- Dallas Moore, "Mr Honky Tonk" Mr Honky Tonk  (Sol, 18)  D
- Fruition, "I'll Never Sing Your Name" Watching it All Fall Apart  (LoHi, 18)  D
- Sonny Smith w/Angel Olsen, "Burnin' Up" Rod For Your Love  (Easy Eye, 18)
- Richmond Fontaine, "Horace Hopper" Don't Skip Out On Me  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)  D
- Lilly Hiatt, "Everything I Had" Trinity Lane  (New West, 17)
^ Andrew Bryant, "Robert Downey Jr's Scars" Ain't It Like the Cosmos  (Last Chance, 17)  D
- Shovels & Rope w/Hayes Carll, "Death or Glory" Busted Jukebox Vol. 2  (New West, 17)
- Ronnie Eaton, "Devil in My Suitcase" Hand That Mocked Them & the Heart That Fed  (Eaton, 18)  D
- Jim White, "Wash Away a World" Waffles Triangles & Jesus  (Loose, 17)
- Lambchop, "King of Nothing Never" What Another Man Spills  (Merge, 98)
- Mary Gauthier, "Brothers" Rifles & Rosary Beads  (In the Black, 18)
- Glossary, "Little Caney" Better Angels of Our Nature  (Young Buffalo, 08)

Monday, January 01, 2018

it's our kind of music
January 1, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Don't know why it's more challenging for me to assemble my favorite songs list than a list of my favorite records.  More than usual this year, many of my very favorite songs happened to be on my top albums, and I played those songs during my year-end records list (see below, a few weeks ago).  Rather than repeat myself, for this Episode I've chosen to only feature stuff from artists who weren't part of that albums list.  In other words, we're not counting anything down here, just spending some quality time with music that's mattered the most to us over the past twelve months.

Last week we featured some of our favorite artists' own favorites for 2017.  Got just another to share with you. From Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, whose Constant Stranger landed in the upper reaches of my 2016 favorites list (and whose collaboration with Will Johnson we'll review next week!), we're advised to check out the following:

Acetone, 1992-2001
Ry Cooder, Paris TX  (1989)
Replacements, For Sale Live in 1986 at Maxwell's Hoboken
Link Wray, s/t (1971) and Be What You Want To (1973)
Dion, Kickin' Child: the Lost Album

For my part, if a white hot iron were held to my forehead by way of threat, I'd probably list the following as my ten favorite songs for 2017 (in alpha-order):

Ryan Adams, "Do You Still Love Me"
Craig Finn, "God in Chicago"
Jason Isbell, "Hope the High Road"
Parker McCollum, "Misuderstood"
Travis Meadows, "Pray For Jungleland"
John Moreland, "It Don't Suit Me (Like Before)"
Ron Pope, "Stick Around"
Texas Gentlemen, "Habbie Doobie"
Becky Warren, "Full of Bourbon"
Lee Ann Womack, "All the Trouble"

Writing this on the first day of the new year, I have spent the last couple weeks following so many links and staring at so many lists from other bloggers.  I've listened to more than my average share of music that doesn't fit here, just in search of patterns and outliers and anything I might've missed.  It matters deeply to me that I understand popular music, even if I don't represent it on my blog. Whereas Jason Isbell and Tyler Childers landed on just about every roots-leaning list, Lee Bains III and Ron Pope were radically under-represented.  Which is all good, because music works best when it strikes at the heart, when we can't tear our ears away from a sound and the emotions solicited are genuine.

(some) FAVORiTE SONGs for 2017

- Chuck Prophet, "Jesus Was a Social Drinker" Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins  (YepRoc, Feb 10)
- Angaleena Presley, "Motel Bible" Wrangled  (Mining Light, Apr 21)
- Whiskey Shivers, "Southern Sisyphus" Part of Something  (Clean Bill, Jul 21)
- Rod Melancon, "Lights of Carencro" Southern Gothic  (Blue Elan, Jun 16)
- Tift Merritt, "Proclamation Bones" Stitch of the World  (YepRoc, Jan 27)
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "Gulfport You've Been On My Mind" Hallelujah Anyhow  (Merge, Sep 22)
- Charlie Worsham, "Call You Up" Beginning of Things  (Warner, Apr 21)
- Caroline Spence, "Southern Accident" Spades & Roses  (Tone Tree, Mar 3)
- Iron & Wine, "Thomas County Law" Beast Epic  (Sub Pop, Aug 25)
- K Phillips, "Coalburner" Dirty Wonder  (Rock Ridge, Mar 10)
- Mark Porkchop Holder, "My Black Name" Let it Slide  (Alive Naturalsound, Feb 17)
- Mic Harrison & High Score, "Salt Stained Road" Vanishing South  (Harrison, Mar 10)
- Shovels & Rope w/John Moreland, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" Busted Jukebox Vol. 2  (New West, Dec 8)
- Juanita Stein, "Someone Else's Dime" America  (Hand Written, Jul 28)
- William Matheny, "Blood Moon Singer" Strange Constellations  (Misra, Feb 24)
- Craig Finn, "God in Chicago" We All Want the Same Things  (Partisan, Mar 24)
- Leif Vollebekk, "All Night Sedans" Twin Solitude  (Secret City, Feb 24)
- Harmed Brothers, "Adopt a Highway" Harmed Brothers  (Fluff & Gravy, Apr 21)
- Romantica, "Lonely Star" Shadowlands  (Last Chance, Feb 10)
- Nicole Atkins, "Brokedown Luck" Goodnight Rhonda Lee  (Single Lock, Jul 21)
- Sam Outlaw, "Bottomless Mimosas" Tenderheart  (Six Shooter, Apr 14)
- Matthew Logan Vasquez, "Red Fish" Does What He Wants  (Dine Alone, Apr 21)
- John Murry, "Under a Darker Moon" Short History of Decay  (Latent, Jul 14)
- Ian Felice, "Will I Ever Reach Laredo" In the Kingdom of Dreams  (New York Pro, Aug 25)
- Blank Range, "Seemed Like Word Got Around" Marooned With the Treasure  (Sturdy Girls, Aug 25)
- Langhorne Slim, "Life is Confusing" Lost at Last Vol. 1  (Dualtone, Nov 10)
- Tim Barry, "Running Never Tamed Me" High on 95  (Chunksaah, Sep 8)
- Hellbound Glory, "Empty Bottles" Pinball  (Black Country Rock, Oct 13)
- Becky Warren, "Full of Bourbon" War Surplus (Deluxe Edition)  (Warren, Sep 1)
- Travis Meadows, "Pray for Jungleland" First Cigarette  (Blaster, Oct 13)

So here's to a 2018 rich with musical discovery.  Here's to a year bearing plenty of surprises - new artists and new directions.  For my part here at R&B HQ, I firmly resolve to buck expectations, to blur boundaries and to dig for musical treasure at every opportunity.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins ...
-- Howard Thurman

a home for the americana diaspora
Christmas 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of pixie dust

The other day I arrived home to find our half-decorated Christmas tree sideways in the living room.  Since our cat is pretty slight, I immediately narrowed the culprits to gravity or the dogs.  And since you can't get angry at gravity .,.

So this is Christmas ...  Time was when I would trek into the radio station for my holiday show, my kids in tow and way high on hot chocolate.  I would alternately make them talk on air or ask them to quiet down while Dad was on the radio. Now, one child lives in the Bronx, another is about to graduate from college and the third will fly the coop in 2018 if everything goes as planned.  Today, the magic happens in the basement, with the ticking clock and the buzzing dryer and the pipes full of rushing water.  But Christmas occurs whether we're ready or not, whether the weather is 25 and snow or 60 and sun.  And holiday music is an essential ornament on our seasonal experience.

This Episode, we offer new stuff from Nikki Lane and Elizabeth Cook, both in collaboration with other artists.  We chill to novel holiday offerings from Matt Pond and Great Lake Swimmers, and we mostly just do our best to make the argument that musical discovery can continue through these bleak winter months.  So let's add another Duraflame to the fire and steel ourselves against the cold.

- Parker McCollum, "Hell of a Year" Probably Wrong  (McCollum, 2017)
- JC Brooks, "Back Door Santa" Christmas Soul  (Amazon, 17)
- Mavericks, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" single  (Mono Mundo, 17)
- Over the Rhine, "Darlin' (Christmas is Coming)" Snow Angels  (Beat Mgmt, 07)
- Craig Gerdes, "Christmas Eve at Our House" single  (Gerdes, 17)  D
- Willie Nelson, "Blue Christmas" Pretty Paper  (Sony, 79)
- Joel Patterson, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Steelism, "Linus & Lucy" single  (Intoxicating Sounds, 17)  D
- Xmas-Men, "Sleigh Ride" Santa is Real  (Xmas-Men, 14)
- Swamp Dogg, "Jingle Bells" An Awful Christmas & a Lousy New Year  (SDEG, 09)
- Nathaniel Rateliff, "Santa Baby" single  (Concord, 17)
- Yawpers, "Christmas in Oblivion" 13 Days of Xmas  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Minus 5, "When Christmas Hurts You This Way" Dear December  (Yep Roc, 17)
- Smithereens, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" Alternative Rock X-mas  (Capitol, 07)
- Bonnie Prince Billy, "Christmas Eve Can Kill You" single  (Drag City, 12)
- White Buffalo, "Christmas Eve" Acoustic Christmas  (Amazon, 17)
- Great Lake Swimmers, "They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore" They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore  (Nettwerk, 17)  D
- Matt Pond PA, "In Winter" More Winter Lives  (131 Records, 17)  D
- First Aid Kit, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" Live From BBC Radio 2  (Columbia, 17)  D
- Emmylou Harris, "Angel Eyes" Light of the Stable  (Warner, 79)
- Boo Ray & Elizabeth Cook, "All Strung Out Like Christmas Lights" single  (Boo Ray, 17)  D
- Dale Watson & His Lonestars, "Christmas To Me" Christmas on the Lam and Other Songs  (Red House, 16)
- All Our Exes Live in Texas, "How To Make Gravy" 13 Days of Xmas  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Ronnie Fauss, "Everybody Deserves a Merry Christmas" An Americana Christmas  (New West, 13)
- Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "White Christmas" It's a Holiday Soul Party  (Daptone, 15)
- Loretta Lynn, "I Won't Decorate Your Christmas Tree" Christmas Collection  (MCA, 05)
- Jarrod Dickenson, "Please Come Home For Christmas" single  (Decca, 17)
- Joseph Bradshaw & Nikki Lane, "Wait Till After Christmas" single  (Bradshaw, 17)  D
- Loose Cattle, "Shepherds in the Parking Lot" Seasonal Affective Disorder  (Low Heat, 17)  D
- Stevie Wonder, "Someday at Christmas" Someday at Christmas  (Motown, 67)

Next week, we'll heap some praise on my favorite songs for 2017, a list I find more challenging than my records list.  And, looking forward a bit, I'm expecting my first review of the year to cover new albums from a couple expats from Water Liars, Andrew Bryant's Ain't It Like the Cosmos and Marie/Lepanto's Tenkiller, featuring Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster along with Will Johnson.  Frankly, I can't wait to return to the weekly blog-slog.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
December 17, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

As we head into 2018, here's a call to listening to All the Music.  
To streaming and purchasing and supporting live music.  
Here's to the spirit of musical discovery, 
to sharing new artists and pushing our musical envelope 
and setting old favorites on the shelf now and then.
To hell with your comfort zone, your envelope, your groove.  
This New Year, resolve to break your habits
and let the music tell you where to go next.


Couple weeks ago I featured my 30 favorite records for 2017, and on December 31 I will share my favorite songs for the year.  Just for fun, I asked some of the artists on my list to tell us about some of their own favorite stuff for the past twelve months.  Fortunately, we had some responses:

Daniel Hines, guitar guy for Left Arm Tan encourages us to check out Walt Wilkins' January Streetlight CD.  He also throws his weight behind the popular appreciation for Turnpike Troubadours' Long Way From Your Heart.  And Daniel adds fellow Texas writer Cole Risner to his list of music that matters.  Left Arm Tan will continue releasing monthly singles into the New Year, culminating in a new collection early in the year.

Joseph Huber recommends two albums to add to your queue:  Hurray for the Riff Raff's Navigator and Modern Pressure, released in May by Daniel Romano.  Huber passed dangerously close to R&B territory early this Summer, buzzing thru Fort Collins for this year's Choice City Stomp.

Anna Tivel was kind enough to share three CDs that helped define her year.  She includes the October self-titled record from Weather Station, as well as Big Thief's stellar Capacity.  I'd join her in recommending those, as well as Leif Vollebekk's Twin Solitudes (one of the albums I despaired to have to leave off my own favorites list).  Tivel's "Alleyway" earned a spot on NPR's 100 Best Songs of the year.  She toured this year alongside Jeffrey Martin, and remarked, "If I could only listen to one thing on repeat forever, (Jeffrey Martin) would be it".

And god bless Matthew Ryan, who took my request very much to heart and appears to share my support for musical discovery.  Plus, doesn't hurt that Matthew has damn good taste in music.  I truly admire an artist who is also a smart listener and a genuine music fan.  I'll just share what he wrote here: These are all favorites for different reasons. They're in no particular order. All of them contain at least one song that destroys me. For me, that's what I'm always looking for, one song that feels like it's always been there. What's below are just some favorites from 2017, certainly not comprehensive. 

Craig Finn, We All Want the Same Things
Slowdive, Sugar for the Pill
Bob Dylan, Triplicate
St Vincent, Masseducation
John Moreland, Big Bad Luv
Elbow, Little Fictions
Benchmarks, Our Undivided Attention
Strand of Oaks, Hard Love
War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
Bash + Pop, Anything Could Happen
Jade Jackson, Gilded
The National, Sleep Well Beast
Dave Hause, Bury Me in Philly
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer, Not Dark Yet
Micah Schnabel, Your New Norman Rockwell
Billy Bragg, Bridges Not Walls

... and my sadly belated discovery of 2017: Richmond Fontaine

Thanks to all who participated, providing a brief glimpse into the inspiration and the personal passion that helps to drive these brilliant artists.

Also this week, we take advantage of The Lull that is the end of the year music release calendar to revisit a couple records that I sorta maybe didn't support to the full extent of their merit.  Stuff by Zephaniah Ohora, Joe Henry and Sam Outlaw.  It's a ripe time for securing these loose ends.  We continue poking around some excellent new releases from Shovels & Rope and Marie/Lepanto.  And we Christmas hard.

I'd mentioned that I'd be sharing my annual traditional Holiday Episode on Christmas Eve.  Then it occurred to me that this gives everyone exactly one day to enjoy the spectacle that is all-Christmas, all-the-time.  Holiday music can already seem out of place in the harsh light of a warm Colorado Christmas afternoon.  While Real Life Things will rise up with their pressing demands, I'll do my best to pull it all together earlier in the week if at all possible.  Please join me in efforting a Christmas miracle.

- Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Had to Laugh" Youth Detention  (Don Giovani, 17)
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Montreal" Soul Mining  (Ellenburg, 17)
- Zephaniah Ohora, "High Class City Girl From the Country" This Highway  (Ohora, 17)
- Zach Schmidt, "I'm Drunk Again This Christmas" 13 Days of Christmas  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Sam Outlaw, "Tenderheart"  Tenderheart  (Six Shooter, 17)
- James McMurtry, "Levelland" Where'd You Hide the Body  (Sony, 95)
- Jim White, "Long Long Day" Waffles Triangles & Jesus  (Loose, 17)
- Angel Olsen, "Endless Road" Phases  (Jagjaguwar, 17)
- Sonny Smith, "Pictures of You" Rod for Your Love  (Easy Eye, 18)
- Jim James, "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" Tribute to 2  (ATO, 17)
- Shovels & Rope w/Matthew Logan Vasquez, "Untitled 1" Busted Jukebox Vol. 2  (New West, 17)
- Joe Pug, "Silver Harps & Violins" Great Despiser  (Lightning Rod, 12)
- First Aid Kit, "Postcard" Ruins  (Columbia, 18)
- Texas Gentlemen, "Christmas With You" Christmas Soul  (Amazon, 17)
- Flat Duo Jets, "Wild Wild Lover" Wild Wild Love  (Daniel 13, 17)
- Caleb Caudle, "Empty Arms" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Two Cow Garage, "Lydia" Sweet Saint Me  (LC, 10)
- Marie/Lepanto, "High Desert"  Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Joe Henry, "Dark is Light Enough" Thrum  (Worksong, 17)
- Minus 5, "See You in December" Dear December  (Yep Roc, 17)
- Anderson East, "King for a Day" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
- Chris Stapleton, "A Simple Song" From A Room Vol. 2  (Mercury, 17)
- Lori McKenna, "Mama's Cooking" Acoustic Christmas  (Amazon, 17)
- Tommy Emmanuel w/Rodney Crowell, "Looking Forward to the Past" Accomplice One  (CGP, 18)
- Sons of Bill, "Arms of the Landslide" Love and Logic  (Gray Fox, 14)
- Max Gomez, "Joe" Me & Joe  (Brigadoon, 17)  D
- Erin Enderlin, "Cowboy Christmas" single  (Blue Slate, 17)  D
- Jarrod Dickenson, "Christmas Time in the City" single  (Decca, 17)  D
- Temptations, "Silent Night" Give Love at Christmas  (Motown, 80)
- Tallest Man on Earth, "Sagres" Dark Bird is Home  (Dead Oceans, 15)

Give the gift of Routes & Branches this holiday season!  If you know someone who values musical discovery, tell them about what you've discovered here.  Share us on the social media of your preference. While 2017 has easily eclipsed any other year for traffic thru our humble site, I dream of something larger, more substantial, more dynamic.  I'm proud of the community that's collecting around these posts, and I fully expect to show my gratitude by growing R&B in new directions as my resources permit.  Oh, and don't hesitate to email me with favorites, reflections and existential crises:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

it's our kind of music
December 13, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Yeah.  Sorta missed my target this week - aimed for Sunday but barely hit Wednesday.  O well.  It's a busy time of year, and work and headspace and family and insert your favorite excuse here.  But now we're here and it's time for another Episode, another ROUTES-cast and another quality review.

Damn. Of all the stuff I had to leave off my year-end favorites list, no regrets have been more persistent than Jeffrey Martin's One Go Around (Fluff & Gravy, Oct 13).  When I was building the list, I thought I had to choose between Martin and Anna Tivel's equally shattering Small Believer (Fluff & Gravy, Sep 29).  I've mentioned how the Portland songwriters are frequent road companions, and how their respective records compliment one another so perfectly.  Fact is, I haven't stopped listening to either, so I gotta write about One Go Around by way of apology.  To shake the ghosts.
I don't know a lot / But I think we only get one go around 
As with Tivel's work, very little on Jeffrey Martin's collection rises beyond a rustle.  Electric guitars are favored over acoustic, but backed sparingly by piano, percussion and little else.  Martin delivers his wisdom in a voice not unlike early Nathaniel Rateliff, a gruff, tired instrument not looking to impress with its prowess but just hoping to connect.  A perfect vehicle for telling stories across a small table, tales of men hoping against hope or pushing wearily against the dark.  From "Poor Man": I'm not a bad man / I'm a poor man sinking.  Martin's narrator, an asphalt man just like his daddy, breaks his back during the day only to shoulder the burden of counting dimes and sleepless nights as his home provides little stability.

Like Noah Gunderson or David Ramirez, Jeffrey Martin's songs can prove ethereal and even fleeting, though they're caked through with the grime and the dirt of our daily labors.  It's loosely a poetry of the working man, though shot through with stunning turns of phrase.
You used to make me go to church / Every Sunday in the evening / Say that god was for men like me / Who swore they didn't need him / And now all this sin I don't believe in / Is heavy on my back
There's a melancholy romanticism here as well, on pieces like the lovely "Surprise, AZ" or "Thrift Store Dress", featuring Anna Tivel on violin.   It emerges in the chord changes and the sticky melodies that underly Martin's songs.  On the latter, he is the weary touring bard, playing songs for strangers in towns that aren't ours.  His focus is maintained by the companionship of a touring partner, At night you sing to parts of me that I haven't ever seen.  Like so many other troubadours, Martin is conflicted by the wandering life, drawn to the song of stability and a house that can't be moved.

One Go Around works as well in the folk music vernacular, offering songs in the key of struggle and stories that sing to the heart.  Both "What We're Marching Toward" and "Hand on a Gun" are protest pieces, and the striking "Billy Burroughs" turns the story of William S Burroughs and his dead lover into a chilling folk ballad with the refrain, Baby sit still and close your eyes / It's only the price of a good time.

I still hold that Jeffrey Martin provides the perfect chaser to the music of Anna Tivel.  And retrospect will always humble me with my ever changing sentiments about this music I love.  One Go Around is the writer's third release, finding Martin adding new dimension and depth to his stunning work.  It has undoubtedly earned a spot among my favorites for the year, a stirring collection that delivers moment after moment of remarkable poetry.
He grew up in a house in the valley / With a daddy who was one long cigarette

Also on this Episode, we continue to paint the town red 'n green with the most original and overlooked holiday music of the season.  Even as 2017 trips and stumbles towards the darkened finish line, we are drawn forward by the promise of bright new music in the form of Caleb Caudle and Jim White.  John Moreland shines alongside Shovels & Rope on the version of "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain" that you've been looking for ever since Willie stole the tune from Roy Acuff.  And on the near horizon we are drawn by strains from Marie/Lepanto, featuring a dream duo of Will Johnson and Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster.  Amen and amen.

- Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "Baby It's Cold Outside" single  (Concord, 17)
- Benjamin Booker, "Overtime" Witness  (ATO, 17)
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Mustangs" Soul Mining  (Ellenburg, 17)
- Mavis Staples, "No Time For Crying" If All I Was Was Black  (Anti, 17)
- Wood Brothers, "River Takes the Town" One Drop of Truth  (Honey Jar, 18)
- Tom Waits, "Little Rain" Bone Machine  (UMG, 92)
- Will Hoge, "Thoughts & Prayers" single  (Edlo, 17)
- Jim White, "Silver Threads" Waffles Triangles & Jesus  (Loose, 18)  D
- Kristina Murray, "How Tall the Glass" single  (Murray, 17)
- Joel Patterson, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar  (Bloodshot, 17)  D
^ Jeffrey Martin, "Surprise, AZ"  One Go Around  (Fluff & Gravy, 17)
- Dori Freeman, "Just Say It Now" Letters Never Read  (Blue Hen, 17)
- Robert Ellis & Courtney Hartman, "Old Time River Man" Dear John  (Refuge Fndtn, 17)
- Travis Meadows, "McDowell Road" First Cigarette  (Blaster, 17)
- Shovels & Rope, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain (w/John Moreland)" Busted Jukebox Vol. 2  (New West, 17)  D
- Parker McCollum, "South of the City Lights" Probably Wrong  (McCollum, 17)
- Minus 5, "Your Christmas Whiskey" Dear December  (Yep Roc, 17)
- Marie/Lepanto, "Inverness" Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)  D
- Margo Price, "Heart of America" All American Made  (Third Man, 17)
- Turnpike Troubadours, "Tornado Warning" Long Way From Your Heart  (Bossier City, 17)
- Hellbound Glory, "Six Strings Away" Pinball  (Black Country Rock, 17)
- Steve Earle, "NYC" El Corazon  (Warner, 97)
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" Acoustic Christmas  (Amazon, 17)
- Caleb Caudle, "Open Arms" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)  D
- Langhorne Slim, "Never Break" Lost at Last Vol. 1  (Dualtone, 17)
- Left Arm Tan, "Mistress Freedom" single  (LAT, 17)  D
- Emmylou Harris, "May This Be Love" Wrecking Ball  (Nonesuch, 95)
- Alela Diane, "Emigre" Cusp  (Diane, 18)  D
- JD Wilkes, "Walk Between the Raindrops" Fire Dream  (Big Legal Mess, 18)  D
- Ags Connolly, "I Hope You're Unhappy" Nothin' Unexpected  (At the Helm, 16)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

a home for the americana diaspora
December 3, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

From artists and labels and promoters to just plain ol' listeners, I'm humbled and real grateful to all who responded to last week's favorites list. Comments came in all flavors, many reminding me of all the great stuff that wasn't included - believe me, I know about all that; I lost sleep over several things I had to leave off.  It all added up to the busiest month on record here at the home office in Northern Colorado. I'll leave last week's Episode up to enjoy for the remainder of 2017, even as we turn our attention to the year to come.  Because that's how we do.

In addition to our end-of-year lists, this time of year also opens the door to all sorts of holiday music.  And there is typically so very much of the stuff, and so much that you don't really need to listen to.  I see it as my role to serve as the snowblower to power through all the Sias and the Gwen Stefanis and all the rehashed Pentatonixes to unearth some of these buried treasures that might delight folks who enjoy what we do here at R&B.  Even if you've soured on seasonal stuff, be patient and you just might see that there's just some pretty good music here.

Let's start with some SINGLES, perfect for folks for whom a little Christmas goes a long way.  We'll certainly give extra bonus points for anyone who writes their own holiday songs, and Boo Ray has done just that, releasing "All Strung Out Like Christmas", a duet with Elizabeth Cook that Rolling Stone heralds as, "a tribute to the timeless tradition of getting drunk and getting it on".  Ah, Christmas.  Raul Malo and his Mavericks have wrapped up a pair of tunes for us, one original and their spirited take on Ronnie Spector's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".    The original, "Christmas Time is (Coming 'Round Again)" is a pleasantly manic romper held together by some fine piano and a stocking full of jingle bells.  Malo delivers with a sly wink and the lyric, "Christmas time is coming 'round again / If you don't believe at least pretend".  Once Vince Guaraldi set the indelible right hand piano line of "Linus & Lucy" in motion, a flurry of fascinating covers have followed (personal favorites include Bela Fleck, Los Straitjackets and Love Tractor).  Add to this Christmas list a faithful albeit slightly futuristic new take by Steelism, managing nods to both Buddy Emmons and Robert Fripp.  Finally, Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats offer remarkably restrained versions of what are surely among my least favorite recurring Christmas songs, "Baby It's Cold Outside" and "Santa Baby".  I know for a fact that there is an extra toasty room in hell reserved for people who sexualize Christmas with talk of chimneys, north poles and trimming the tree.  That said, Rateliff does something almost revolutionary in reversing the voice in both of these chestnuts.  While "Baby It's Cold" has increasingly earned the reputation as being real creepy, there's something charming in the uncredited woman telling Rateliff, "Your hair looks swell" or Rateliff complaining, "My mother will start to worry".  And on "Santa Baby", "Slip a sable under the tree for me / I've been an awful good girl".  To my knowledge, Michael Buble is the only male to attempt this song, but he proved cowardly in changing the lyrics to "Santa buddy".  Rateliff's laid back crooning wouldn't sound all too bad on a full album of this stuff.

More impressive are the artists who come a'caroling with an EP or a full LP's worth of ORIGINAL holiday faire.  Last year about this time, I was waxing all nostalgic under the influence of Matt Pond PA's exquisite Winter Lives full length.  Instead of "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty", the New York trio celebrates the season with "Sunset at the Gas Pump" and "Whoa".  By way of follow-up, this year Matt Pond brings us More Winter Lives, an EP featuring a couple remixes and a couple new things.  Rather than Christmas, you might call it "seasonal" or "winter music", instrospective chamber folk perfect for a fireside listen or a leisurely drive through the snowy trees (they're out there somewhere).  In a similar vein, Tony Dekker and Great Lake Swimmers offer They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore, an EP equally divided between originals and trads.  There is such a welcome warmth to this stuff, from the lush strings and the vocals confiding sweet secrets.

I'll insert a paragraph break here, since the final original from the Minus 5 is another thing entirely.  As Scott McCaughey and co. have proven over countless albums, EPs and singles, absolutely nothing is sacred (save maybe baseball).  In light of McCaughey's recent stroke, it must be acknowledged what an eclectic treasure he is to our kind of music.  Contrary to the hushed and reverent nature of the former collections, the originals on Dear December are perfect for moments of frivolity, misbehavior and ill advised indulgence.  God bless 'em, there's nothing reverent about "New Christmas Hymn":  I'm offering this Christmas hymn / Not for any ghost or Tiny Tim / For both the naughty and the nice / We're all skating on the same thin ice.  Other highlights include the Spector-esque "Merry Christmas Mr. Gulp Gulp" and "Your Christmas Whiskey", a tipsy ode that was originally featured in Yep Roc's 2007 Oh Santa! sampler.  Like just about everything else McCaughey touches, there's a distinct garage-y sensibility to all the proceedings, and it's all shot through with a glossy ribbon of timeless pop.  Guest appearances by M Ward, Colin Meloy, Chuck Prophet, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and more make this the year's only holiday party you won't want to miss.

By far the best way to soundtrack your holiday is with a various artists COMPILATION, a collection guaranteed to hit the target at least now and then.  I'll include an honorable mention here for Red House Records' Christmas on the Lam and Other Songs from the Season, which actually saw light last winter.  This one features contributions from label friends like Charlie Parr, Wailin' Jennys and the Pines, who provide a cottony taste of Gordon Lightfoot's splendid "Song For a Winter's Night".  The friendly folk at Amazon continue to add worthy new stuff to their Christmas playlists, aptly named Christmas Soul, Indie for the Holidays and Acoustic Christmas.  The generous soul selections include stuff ranging from Robert Finley and JC Brooks to soul-ish stocking stuffers from Texas Gentlemen and Nicole Atkins (providing the only soulful rendition of "O Holy Night" you're ever going to hear).  New additions to the indie list include Best Coast, Kevin Morby and Jessica Lea Mayfield's funereal reading of Loretta Lynn's "To Heck With Old Santa Claus".  Amazon introduces their Acoustic playlist advising listeners to "stay chill no matter where you're celebrating".  Will do, Amazon.  2017 contributions to this list include Lori McKenna, Courtney Marie Andrews, and White Buffalo, whose melodic "Christmas Eve" might be my favorite original holiday song of the year.

Nevertheless, I will reserve this final spot for our trusty friends at Bloodshot Records, whose 13 Days of Xmas answers the abiding question, "What would it sound like if Bloodshot released a Christmas record?" Well, it sounds like long established label artists like Jon Langford, Devil in a Woodpile and Murder by Death hitting the nog and pressing RECORD.  Guitarist James Elkington does Christmas Brit-folk style, prompting NPR to remind us that "Christmas carols needn't always be cheery and bright".  That'd make a suitable tagline for 13 Days, with Kelly Hogan's Blue Note-ready "Blue Snowfall" and the Yawpers' perfectly bleak "Christmas in Oblivion".  But wait!  Ha Ha Tonka counter the trend with a lovely "The List", and All Our Exes Live in Texas apply their beautiful voices to Paul Kelly's Australian-themed "How to Make Gravy".  But yeah, Zach Schmidt can't help but drown in his drink, "I'm Drunk Again This Christmas".  And while it's not necessarily the stuff to play during Grandma and Grandpa's visit, I've found Bloodshot's collection just the thing to keep my tired soul company during the long drives home from work in the early dark.

More ho ho ho in the works before we turn off the Christmas machine.  We're also speeding towards our promised December 31 favorite songs program.

- Left Arm Tan, "Best I Never Had" single  (LAT, 17)
- Jeffrey Martin, "Surprise, AZ"  One Go Around  (Fluff & Gravy, 17)
- Ronnie Fauss, "Twenty-Two Years" Last of the True  (Normaltown, 17)
- Parker McCollum, "Misunderstood" Probably Wrong  (McCollum, 17)
- Lee Ann Womack, "Sunday" Lonely the Lonesome & the Gone  (ATO, 17)
- Rod Picott, "All the Broken Parts" Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail  (Welding Rod, 14)
^ Yawpers, "Christmas in Oblivion" 13 Days of Xmas  (Bloodshot, 17)  D
- Mark Porkchop Holder, "Big Boat" Death & the Blues  (Alive Naturalsound, 17)
- Chris Stapleton, "Midnight Train to Memphis" From A Room: Vol. 2  (Mercury, 17)
- Ruby Boots, "Don't Talk About It" Don't Talk About It  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Drew Kennedy, "Jackson" At Home in the Big Lonesome  (Atlas Aurora, 17)
- Scott Miller, "Epic Love" Ladies Auxiliary  (FAY, 17)
- First Aid Kit, "Fireworks" Ruins  (Columbia, 18)
- Jeffrey Foucault, "Battle Hymn (of the College Dropout Farmhand)" Miles From the Lightning  (Rock River, 01)
- Cody Jinks, "Last Call For the Blues" Less Wise (Modified 2017)  (Jinks, 17)
- Kristina Murray, "How Tall the Glass" single  (Murray, 17)  D
- Jason & the Scorchers, "Harvest Moon" Midnight Roads & Stages Seen  (Mammoth, 98)
- Wilco, "When You Find Trouble" AM (Special Edition)  (Sire, 17)
- Diamond Rugs, "Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant" Diamond Rugs  (Partisan, 12)
^ Minus 5, "See You in December" Dear December  (Yep Roc, 17)  D
- Jim James, "World is Falling Down" Tribute to 2  (ATO, 17)
- Calexico, "Voices in the Fields" Thread That Keeps Us  (Anti, 18)
- Angel Olsen, "Tougher Than the Rest" Phases  (Jagjaguwar, 17)  D
- Robert Ellis & Courtney Hartman, "Gentle on My Mind" Dear John  (Refuge Fndtn for the Arts, 17)  D
- Light Wires, "Belly of the Beast" Light Wires  (Sofaburn, 17)
- Kim Richey, "Get Together (w/Mando Saenz)" single  (Yep Roc, 17)  D
- Blaze Foley, "Clay Pigeons" Live at the Austin Outhouse  (Lost Art, 99)
- Will Hoge, "Thoughts & Prayers" single  (Edlo, 17)  D
- Mary Gauthier, "War After the War" Rifles & Rosary Beads  (In the Black, 18)
^ Nicole Atkins, "O Holy Night" Christmas Soul  (Amazon, 17)  D