By Ben Salmon March 31, 2022
This month’s Best of Country column leans a bit towards the bluegrassy side, featuring not one but two artists from beautiful Sevier County, Tennessee. But you’ll also find laid-back folksongs, seasoned country rock, and sunny solo acoustic guitar jams. Country and country-adjacent, with a bit more emphasis on “adjacent” this time. Enjoy!
Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves
If you want to make music that radiates grandma’s energy, at least make sure it’s apocalyptic grandma energy. It’s the atmosphere of Hurricane Clarice, the latest collaboration between violinist Tatiana Hargreaves and banjo player Allison de Groot, two top players who come together as one living, breathing organism when they play together. Here, they weave climate anxiety, string band traditions, literary influences and family histories – even their grandmothers’ recordings – into a sound that bubbles, buzzes and smolders as it hurtles through the unknown.
The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys
never slow down
There are throwback bands, and then there are bands that sound like they’ve been thrown into the 21st century from another time and another place. The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are the latter, thanks in large part to their traditional bluegrass roots, which run deep into the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. On their new album never slow downthis troupe of perfect pickers not only does justice to their bluegrass ancestors, but also leads the way with their bright, dynamic and melodic sound.
Younger in almost everything
Devotees past and present will almost certainly notice the melodic reference in “The Seedling,” the second track from Kyle Morgan’s new album. Amid the slowness of his first verse, Morgan interpolates the Christian hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, one of many examples throughout Younger in almost everything where the artist refers to devotional music. Spiritual themes aside, Morgan’s acoustic folk songs are universally appealing to fans of the genre: sometimes sparse, sometimes lush, and often from the Paul Simon-to-fleet foxes family tree.
Brittany Haas with Paul Kowert and Mike Gaisbacher
Impromptu Sessions #1: Brittany Haas
Brittany Haas is best known as a prodigious violinist, but Impromptu Sessions #1 is a good reminder that she can handle a banjo too. Born out of a productive jam session, these recordings capture a minimalist arrangement (Haas plucking banjo, accompanied by Paul Kowert or Mike Gaisbacher on bass) that suits (mostly) traditional tunes. But it’s Haas’ banjo work that really shines: she plays with a restrained, somewhat rounded tone that transforms the banjo sound from jagged to sublime.
When you can slam an endorsement from the jazz guitarist extraordinaire Julien Lage on your website, you are doing something good. Ethan Sherman is a Los Angeles-based picker who has played with artists ranging from newgrass mandolinist Mike Marshall to experimental saxophonist. Patrick Shiroshi to Nels freakin’ Cline! On his solo album Interior viewshe shows off his impressive guitar sense, running through a set of laid-back, bluegrass-based acoustic tracks interspersed with tracks from jazz, folk, baroque pop and beyond.
How many kilometers
Bo Ramsey has been around. The Iowa-based singer, songwriter, and guitarist has performed with artists like Iris DeMent and Calexico, produced a slew of records for folk giant Greg Brown, and won a Grammy for his work with Lucinda Williams. But his new EP How? ‘Or’ What many miles it looks like it was made just for Ramsey. At five tracks long, it’s a brief look at the musician’s two artistic sides: three beautifully textured ambient experiences from two country rockers. Whatever your mood, there’s a Bo Ramsey for you.
Dibson T Hoffweiler
Joshua Tree and other desert towns
The most recent update on Dibson T Hoffweiler’s website is from July 2018, while he was hiking and recording in Joshua Tree National Park in California. Almost four years later, we hear some of these recordings thanks to Joshua Tree and other desert towns, a collection of pretty and rugged, buzzy and kinetic solo acoustic guitar songs not unlike those of the legendary John Fahey. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear them blossom and bloom in the desert of your mind.
Underground folk duo Taco Tapes’ second album feels less like a finished recording project ready for the public to consume than a clandestine experience of a laid-back jam on a busy summer evening. Players are Pacific Northwest locals Ben Walden and Jeremy James Meyer, songs include originals and covers from roots luminaries like Peter Rowan, Mickey Newbury and Ola Belle Reed, and the vibe is as calm and carefree as everything you’ll hear in these extremely rushed songs. and anxious moments.