Album Review: Nikki Lane – Denim and Diamonds

‘Making a record with Nikki Lane saved my life. Her songs about life, love, loss and just plain picking yourself up to go for another round in the ring…helped me do the same,’ Josh Homme declared on Instagram last week, a sentiment which honours the power of the Highway Queen herself and also references the trouble he’s been in lately. Truly I know how he feels, since I started this blog five years ago during a particularly low point in my life, after being inspired by Nikki’s spirit, attitude and musical style.

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Album Review: Sunny Sweeney – Married Alone

Can a song fix everything?

Songs are lifeboats for me. Music saves my soul and my sanity every damn day. Hitting the repeat button until a new song is inside your heart and soul is one of the joys of my life. Other people may let music wash over them, a background soundtrack to other more interesting pursuits. But for me, for most of us reading this blog I’m sure, music is the answer to a question we don’t even know how to ask.

Sunny Sweeney understands. On this new album she shows us how music can save your life, bring you comfort when life gets rough, maybe even bring someone back to life even for a moment. Music is the closest feeling we have to that kind of miracle.

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Album Review: Amy Ray – If It All Goes South

At the Americana awards in Nashville this week the Indigo Girls were recognised with the Spirit of Americana/ Free Speech in music award for lifetime achievement as songwriters and activists. Brandi Carlile introduced the award by describing the duo as ‘heroes who are still paving the way…for the people and of the people.’

Amy accepted the award with a speech echoing the sentiment Joan Baez once expressed to her: ‘I’m not going to pass my torch to anyone…I’m going to hang on to it and help others light theirs. We all need to keep that flame of social justice alive.’ It was a powerful statement of continued intent from a duo who have quietly blazed a trail for LGBT musicians for decades.

Amy embraces her Americana roots on this excellent solo album, working with an array of friends and collaborators who understand the power of community. Written during the pandemic, If It All Goes South offers solace and hope for turbulent times.

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Album Review: Kelsey Waldon – No Regular Dog

Kelsey Waldon’s distinctive voice commands your attention, as though she’s looking you straight in the eye through the speakers. Choosing producer Shooter Jennings for this new record was a wise move considering his stellar work with Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker and the underrated Jaime Wyatt. No Regular Dog has a classic Americana sound, brimming with personality and a little extra bite.

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Album Review: Leona Naess – Brood X

In the early 00s, Leona Naess released albums of beautiful songs conveying the ache of desire and the devastation of broken hearts. After a particularly difficult time in her personal life she took a break from music to become a mother. Years passed and I always wondered what she was up to – following her on social media in the hope of finding out about new music. This year my patience was rewarded with the release of Brood X, a joyful and surprisingly poppy collection of new songs exploring motherhood, marriage, life and loss.

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Album Review: Miranda Lambert – Palomino

During the restlessness of the last couple of years Miranda Lambert decided to become something she hadn’t had a chance to be for a long time: a tourist. Taking her Airstream and husband along with her she drove around the country, savouring the sights which had long since just become nothing more than blurry tour stops.

Of course this is Miranda Lambert so she didn’t exactly relax for very long. That time led to her recording the Marfa Tapes project, which in turn fed into the writing of this new album Palomino (she also released the underrated Pistol Annies Christmas album last year too). Her career as a popular mainstream performer on the country music festival circuit and live scene is cemented for life and consequently there is a sense of freedom to the music on this album which suggests she’s taking a pragmatic approach to commercial chart success (ie she tries a little but doesn’t really care about the outcome).

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Album Review: Amanda Shires – Take It Like a Man

The highlight of Amanda Shires’s pre-pandemic album ‘To the Sunset’ was a song called ‘Break Out the Champagne’ which was about embracing the apocalypse with a defiant shrug and celebration. Get on with the shit show, she hollered, as if she sensed trouble was brewing up ahead.

On the surface it seemed like Shires had it all: successful solo career, creator of the supergroup the Highwomen, famous husband Jason Isbell, gorgeous daughter, the privilege of beauty, brains, a nice house and home studio, money for expensive designer clothes and round the world travel. What could she have to worry about?

Yet behind the scenes, Shires admits to having been in turmoil. In the studio her music was criticised and she felt overlooked (by whom she has not been specific, but previous producer Dave Cobb is notably absent here). She also admitted that her and Jason endured a fractious time when recording the 400 Unit album ‘Reunions’. 

Then the pandemic hit and soon Shires felt like quitting music altogether. 

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Dolly Parton’s Discography – For God and Country

In an interview around the time of this album Dolly stated, ‘I’m not a bit political, but I’m extremely patriotic’. This is somewhat contradictory statement on its own terms and after listening to For God and Country it appears to be a flat out deception on Dolly’s part. This album is the most overtly political statement of Dolly’s career.

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