Album Reviews

  • Album Review: Rod Picott, 'Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil'

    • July 19, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Rod Picott puts his gruff voice and warm acoustic to work on the 12-song cycle of stories that explore what it means to be alive in varying circumstances — dealing with self-doubt and toxic masculinity, stepping hesitantly into manhood, having a friend commit suicide, regretting a life wasted away, wrestling with demons of days past, and more. No detail is left behind in his tellings of these tales.

  • Album Review: Jamestown Revival, 'San Isabel'

    • July 19, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    With their latest release, San Isabel, Jamestown Revival has gone back to the very basics of their band — the vocal harmony play between Jonathan Clay's soothing baritone and Zach Chance's lilting tenor — and built up from there. Recorded in a remote, central Colorado cabin, the album's production process matched their writing process in centering “being” in the moment, every moment.

  • Album Review: Keb' Mo', 'Oklahoma'

    • July 12, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Regardless of how he achieved his joy, Keb' Mo' injects it into everything he does, including his latest album, Oklahoma. But that's not to say he doesn't see the problems of the world. He very much does. And he's not shy about voicing his opinions on those matters. He just does so in a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” way, delivering his topical tunes with a wink and a smile.

  • Album Review: Courtney Hartman, 'Ready Reckoner'

    • July 02, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Not everyone can be alone with nothing but their thoughts to fill the space that surrounds them.... singer/songwriter/guitarist Courtney Hartman did just that for 40 days as she trekked across Spain's 500-mile Camino de Santiago trail. Along the journey, she eschewed listening to music, but embraced writing it. The result is her first solo effort, the truly spectacular Ready Reckoner.

  • Album Review: Dylan LeBlanc, 'Renegade'

    • June 24, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    As stunning as LeBlanc's compositional work is, it would be less so, if rendered by a less stirring voice. Even at his relatively young age, LeBlanc has lived several different and difficult lives. He's been there and done that — or knows someone who has — no matter what there and that are, and the empathy gained from that living flows through every note to make Renegade one of the best records, from any genre, of 2019.

  • Album Review: Roo Panes, 'Quiet Man' (Deluxe Edition)

    • June 19, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Quiet Man is one of those records that can be enjoyed on its vibe, alone, such is the warmth and comfort in which it swaddles those who listen. But a closer listen, in order to hear the thoughtful touches layered into the work, is well worth the effort.

  • Album Review: Ani DiFranco, 'No Walls Mixtape'

    • June 19, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    In tandem with her new memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream, DiFranco has revisited 16 songs from across her 30-year discography on No Walls Mixtape. It's fascinating to hear these compositions rendered with hard-earned, middle-aged calm rather than the fearless, youthful rage of decades past. (Good grief. Ani DiFranco is middle-aged!)

  • Album Review: Mavis Staples, 'We Get By'

    • June 19, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    On her new album, We Get By, Mavis continues the work she's been doing for nearly 70 years — the work of reminding us who we are or, perhaps, who we can and should be if we stand on the right side of history and live with love for our neighbors. Much like with Livin' on a High Note, these songs were clearly written explicitly for Mavis and she, of course, is more than up to the task of delivering them with equal parts punch and poise. There's just no one else like Mavis.

  • Album Review: Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, 'there is no Other'

    • May 22, 2019
    • Kelly McCartney

    Where humans travel, so go their customs and cultures, including music. Nothing is pure. Not this far into an ever-evolving world. And, because no thing is just one thing, all things share some things. That is the idea, on both the personal and musical fronts, at the heart of there is no Other, the new album by Rhiannon Giddens in partnership with Francesco Turrisi.