July Adds: Remember: These short reviews are meant to give you some reference to the production, and are my first impressions. Opinions expressed by me may differ as time marches onward, and spins collect.
Joe X.

Jeremy Wallace - My Lucky Day (Palmetto; 71 Washington Pl., #1A - NY,NY 10011 www.palmetto-records.com

In this record, my ears hear all the components that make TCMN what it is - gritty, roadworn, sparse yet full production, loose yet confident style.  JW's voice is as rough as a weatherbeaten oak plank.  Sings like it was the last song of a long, smoky nite. Half shouts / growls some lyrics. It works.  Songs about everything from lost loves (Missing You This Morning) to Blues Nuggets (St. James Infirmary). Barrelhouse feel to entire disc. Not a blues album in the strictest sense, yet embodies the "soul" of the blues I personally like the best, Country Blues, but is a bigger production than most Country Blues records.
Grit Factor: 5

Farmer Not So John - Receiver (Compass Records - 117 30th Ave. So. Nashville,
Tn. 37212 www.compassrecords.com

Another good outing for these boys - this's about the only grunge-country I've ever really fallen for. I still haven't warmed up to this album like the last one, but the last one was a slow burn for me. Took a while for the fine lyrics of Mack Linebaugh to sink into mu big ol' Wal-Mart brain. Reading the lyrics of this piece though, you can tell ML hasn't slowed any. Pedal steel by Sean Ray.  (Buck 50) Moody, atmospheric whine prevails in mostly angst-ridden ballads. Some up-tempo numbers (Consigned To Oblivion) Over all, some of the most compelling music presented by this "slacker" generation of Alt. Country folks.
Grit factor: 4

The Songs Of Dwight Yoakum - Will Sing For Food (Little Dog Records - 223 W.
Alameda Suite 201 Burbank, Ca. 91502 www.littledogrecords.com

Good record for a great cause. Haven't been a fan of DY, so I don't personally recognize any of the material, so all seems like fresh meat to me.  Talent includes: Rhonda Vincent; Backsliders; David Ball; Sara Evans; Jim Matt; Tim O'Brien; Kim Richey; Scott Joss; Bonnie Bramlett; Lonesome Strangers; Blazers; Reckless Kelly; Pete Droge; Gillian Welch.  Cause is of course the Homeless. All proceeds go to the L.A. County Foodbank.   All technical and production help was donated, as was studio, mixing, mastering, and royalties for songs, courtesy Dwight Yoakum.
Grit Factor: 4

L.A. County Line - Various (Strawdog Records - PO Bx. 26584 L.A. Ca. 90026)

Fine representation of the L.A. area country musicians. Lots of people you'd never hear of here in SOTX, were it not for this album. Unknowns: Trailer Park Casanovas; Lucky Stars; Groovy Rednecks; Russell Scott & Red Hots; Tammy Smith; P.J. Pesce; Dan Janisch; Losin' Bros.; Thousand Dollar Wedding; Christopher Sprague; Annie Harvey.
Known Quantities: Rosie Flores; Billy Bacon & Forbidden Pigs; Chris Gaffney; Neil Mooney; Deke Dickerson (Dave & Deke)
Grit Factor: 4

Laurel Canyon Ramblers - Back On The Street Again (Sugar Hill - PO Bx. 55300,
Durham, NC. 27717-5300 www.sugarhillrecords.com

As music Director, Bluegrass is a tough sell. For some reason, the "Newgrass" stuff, which is the most prolific today, leaves me cold.  This new disc by Laural Canyon, perhaps due to the Herb Pederson production, has a really good, old-time feel, and lacks that cold, sterile presence a lot of BG stuff has today. Straight-forward BG. High-lonesome vocals. We'll see how it does with the TCMN jocks.
Grit Factor: 3

Michael Edwards Band - Holding My Own (six-one-five Records, 1304 Hermatige
Pk. Dr. Hermatige, Tn. 37076

This record nearly got thrown out for the first two songs - most cliche-ridden songs I've ever heard.  Got past those, heard some stuff I think we can use.  Kinda toned-down Lonesome Bob sound. When he gets away from the worn out phrases, he has a lot to say. Sings about stuff we like...Paradise Motel; Room to Roam; Out Of My Mind.
Grit Factor: 4

Daniel Moore - Riding a Horse & Holding Up the World (DJM 849 Harvard Blvd.
Santa Paula Ca. 93060 www.djmrec.com 1.888.356.2583

Was really, really hoping this wouldn't be as soft sounding as it looked - it wasn't. DM's the writer of some very solid songs you already know - "My Maria" (B.W.Stevenson) "The Prettiest Eyes In California", "Shambala". Handles these songs with his own sense of style - a bit brasher, maybe bolder presentation than the original artists. In good voice. Not a vanity project - very usable production.   DM has sort of a Stephen Bruton sound.
Grit Factor: 3

Brad Randell & the Zydeco Ballers - Move That Thang (Bad Weather Records -
997 Lauderdale Woodyard Rd. Kinder, La. 70648 1.318.738.5356

O.K., I give up. I've resisted the movement of Zydeco towards the more urban- influenced sound, big bass, etc., but shit, it's hard as to resist a band that pays as much homage to Boozoo and Beau Jocque as these guys do. Like Rosie Ledet, the lyrics are a bit risque, sex-driven, and down-home. (Move That Thang; Bumpin' In Your Ride; Pussy Cat Where Are You?; Bad, Bad Woman; Saddle Up)  Lousiana party / dance music. I think we'd better all get used to it. This is what most of it's gonna sound like soon. (What doesn't sound funked-up, at least)
Grit factor: 3

Bois Sec Ardoin With Balfa Toujours - Allons Dancer (Rounder One camp St.
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140 www.rounder.com

Where would you go to learn the REAL way to play and sing Louisiana musics?  If you're looking to learn Cajun and Creole, and you got any sense, you'd go to the originator of the sounds....he's still alive, you know. His name is BOIS SEC ARDOIN. You say you're tired of the fluffy or over-processed sounds coming from Lousiana lately? Git ya some of this disc. Rock-hard real-thang bonecrushing Creole / Cajun music from the genre's most enduring figure.   Christine Balfa / Balfa Toujours, Steve Riley (drums) helping out, bowing to the master, while simultaniously lending their own sound to the record.  Bois Sec Ardoin may not be in a class all by himself, but when they meet, it don't take 'em long ta call role....
Grit Factor: 5

Mare Winningham - Lonesomers (Razor & Tie PO Bx. 585 Cooper Station, NY.
10276 www.razorandtie.com

I ain't much on singin' actresses, but I gotta say this piece is the exception to my rule. If this were even a little more folky I wouldn't be interested, but it's just enough folky to be acceptable, and plenty firey to meet TCMN needs. Mare's no prima-donna actress on this project, a trooper indeed, as she does the vocals, plays lead guitar and dulcimer. I like the fact she didn't go git a bunch of heavyweights (she probably knows them all) to name-drop on this album.  Not as self-serving as the folky girls, Mare's record doesn't seem at all self-concious. I think maybe in this case, being an established artist already, has worked towards producing a good, well written album of personal songs, without taking it so personally, if ya know what I mean.....   All songs written by Mare, except "The Last Time" (Stones). Produced by San Antonio's own Carla Olson.   Sound is part Toni Price, part Joanie Mitchell (at her grittiest), part Kimmie Rhodes, part Kelly Willis.  Nice addition to the TCMN ladies section.
Grit factor: 3

Dwight Yoakum - A Long Way Home (Reprise Records - 3300 Warner Blved.
Burbank Ca. 91505-4694 www.Reprisenashville.com/

Damn me to the pits of commercialism, those of you who wish to, but I LIKE THIS RECORD. Have actively avoided DW since early in his success, but lately, it makes more sense to listen to what this guy has to say. I've quit being put off by his persona, and started listening to his music, and I'll tell ya, for my money, he's got a lot to say. I think my first objection to DW was the fusion of R&R into his country sound, ("88-'91?) but since then, "Country" music has not only been consumed by R&R, but BAD R&R. At least when Dwight decides to rock it up, he's decent at the arrangements. Maybe it's my perspective that's changed, maybe it's DW has aged well, but either way, the songs on this album (mostly) seem deep and soulful, when to me, he's known as a rather shallow and cold guy.  Besides, it can't be bad when the TCMN females love somebody. (Brenda X. goes limp when I put this record on)
Grit factor: 4

Shaver - Victory (New World - 1043 Grand Ave. #262 St Paul, Mn. 55102

I guess when I picked up this disc and noticed it was all...uhmmm.."spiritual" songs, I sorta drew back. Maybe I expected to be preached at, like one of those Baptist Evangelists from my memory; red-faced, screaming the gospel according to his personal beliefs. I couldn't have been more wrong.   These are mostly songs you've heard before, spread out over a lifetime of recording for Billy Joe Shaver. Come to think of it, I don't recall a single album from BJS that doesn't have at least one "spiritual" song on it. Here's a chance to hear them all on one disc.   "You Can't Beat Jesus Christ / Cowboy Who Started the Fight / Live Forever / If I Give My Soul / When Fallen Angels Fly / Old Five And Dimers are a few of the songs. Now you see what I mean?  Credits read: BJS - Vocals & Guitar; Eddy Shaver, Guitars and Dobro. All acousitc.  Pardon my critique of BJS, but to tell the truth, the last album I got from him (Live From Old Smith's Pub(?)) seemed, after several albums working towards it, a bit heavy on Eddy's guitar licks. No offense to Eddy, but it's pretty easy to cover up the subtleties of lyrics like his dad's, and that's what was happening.  On "Victory", Eddy plays acousitc guitar and dobro. Even acoustic, ES leans pretty hard on the "overplay" side of the table.  On to Victory!
Grit Factor: 4

Edges From The Postcard 2 (2-discs) (P-2 Records www.twangfest.com)

Postcard 2 is a listserver mailing list, (exists in cyberspace, on the net) that concentrates it's energies posting about everything from Alt. Country, traditional Country to cooking recipes. Listmembers include musicians, writers, industry weasels who love country or roots musics.  Every year, the members who can, make the trip to St Louis, Mo., to forcefully take over a live music venue and a motel for mischief, mayhem, and, oh yeah, to play music.   People on the discs we already know: Robbie Fulks; Wooden Leg; One fell Swoop; Chris Wall; Kevin Johnson; Mike Ireland; Ed Pettersen; Bob Woodruff; Kimmie Rhodes.  Groups I only know by their P-2 posts, but think they sound pretty cool: Fear and Whiskey; Buck Diaz; Union Springs; Bluetick; The Ghost Rockets. 
Posters you may know are: Little Johnny Conqueso; Mark Rubin; Joe Gracey; Jeff Wall; Jim Calaguiri (sp?); and me, Joe X..
Thankfully, no, mecifully, there's no songs on these discs sung by Little
Johnny Conqueso.<G>
For instructions on how to subscribe to P-2, go to TCMN links page, click on "Passenger Side", then follow the instructions.   Please don't subscribe and expect to become the most hated, wrong-thinking Texan.
I already hold that position, thank you very much.<G>
Grit factor: 4

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