Album Reviews

  • Album Review: Jill Andrews, 'Thirties'

    • March 27, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    Raise your hand if you thought your life would look different at whatever age you happen to currently be? It's an endemic condition. Maybe it's from the movies that we watch as kids. Maybe it's from the myths that we portray on social media. Whatever the cause, dang near no one is who they thought they'd be at this particular moment. That's the issue beating at the heart of 'Thirties,' the new release from singer/songwriter Jill Andrews.

  • Album Review: Dave Simonett, 'Red Tail'

    • March 24, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    With Red Tail, Dave Simonett steps out from his Trampled by Turtles and Dead Man Winter projects to put his songs center stage, while also letting them be just what they are without trying to prove anything to anyone.

  • Album Review: Brandy Clark, 'Your Life Is A Record'

    • March 17, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    With Your Life Is a Record, Brandy Clark returns to her natural habitat, letting classic production, real-life lyrics, and soulful melodies carry the load, the combination of which works beautifully for her voice and her compositions. Interestingly, while it's Jay Joyce who is back in the producer's seat, thanks to the soaring strings, punchy horns, and Randy Newman cameo, the work feels rather like a record Mitchell Froom would make, if he were to make a country record.

  • Album Review: Aoife O'Donovan, 'Bull Frogs Croon (And Other Songs)'

    • March 17, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    On Bull Frogs Croon (and Other Songs), Aoife O'Donovan collaborated with co-producer/violinist Jeremy Kittel and Louisville Symphony Orchestra conductor Teddy Abrams to set the poems of Peter Sears — Oregon's 2014 poet laureate — to mesmerizingly delicate music brought to life by violinist Brittany Haas, bassist Paul Kowert, and violist Mario Gotoh. Few singers in the folk world would be as ambitious or successful as O'Donovan is in this particular pursuit, but she's never been one to walk away from a new adventure. And bringing some of the most innovative players in the milieu along for the ride certainly doesn't hurt her chances.

  • Album Review: The Secret Sisters, 'Saturn Return'

    • March 05, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    Everyone knows, and has likely lived, the old adage, “When it rains, it pours,” to describe those phases of life when everything seems to come crashing down at once. It's not always bad things, to be sure; but it's always a LOT. According to astrology, the event dubbed a “Saturn return,” which happens every 28 or so years, almost always brings one of those pourings. It definitely did for the Secret Sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers.

  • Album Review: Sarah Harmer, 'Are You Gone'

    • February 26, 2020
    • Kim Ruehl

    Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer is back with what may be the finest work of her career. Are You Gone—her first studio album since 2010’s Oh Little Fire—is full of lush, beautifully arranged instrumentation and Harmer’s exquisite vocal performance.

  • Album Review: Katie Pruitt, 'Expectations'

    • February 23, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    Singer/songwriter Katie Pruitt was born smack dab in the middle of the '90s, apparently soaking up the decade's musical ethos in utero and after, as made apparent on her debut album, Expectations. Rare are first-album lyrical voices so fully formed and fully engaging as Pruitt's. Rarer still are they embedded within the kind of hooks and arrangements that songwriters hope to someday catch an earful of. Yet, song after song, Pruitt delivers on every level — writing, performance, and production (with help from producer Michael Robinson).

  • Album Review: Rose Cousins, 'Bravado'

    • February 21, 2020
    • Kim Ruehl

    Rose Cousins has, over the course of eight albums, developed a consistent track record of deeply emotional, often painfully honest, catchy songs. Though she has toyed with theme and concept, her recordings have followed a certain formula that will make them recognizable to fans as standard singer-songwriter fare: Songs the artist wrote over a specific period of time, occasionally thematically linked, hopefully depicting some kind of creative and/or personal growth since the last time they entered the studio.

  • Album Review: John Moreland, 'LP5'

    • February 18, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    Dubbed LP5, the album is a gloriously fulsome piece of art, with textures and soundscapes we hadn't previously associated with the Tulsa artist. The opening cut, “Harder Dreams,” is punctuated by a sonic structure that wouldn't be out of place on an album from the National as it details the reaching for something higher in life, rather than simply settling for the beliefs passed down through churches, culture, and consumerism for whom the cruelty is the point.

  • Album Review: Della Mae, 'Headlight'

    • February 06, 2020
    • Kim Ruehl

    With their latest release, Headlight (Rounder Records), Della Mae chooses not to provide release from the dominant culture of the past few years, but rather to dig deeply into the reality of being female in America. Whether musing about a missing lover (“I Like It When You’re Home”) or paying tribute to brave women like Christine Blasey Ford (“Headlight”), they explore womanhood with integrity and grace, warts and all.