Best of 2018



These are the albums that stood out for me during the last year for a variety of reasons but mostly because they simply contained good music.

Pat Reedy & The Longtime Goners  That’s All There Is (And There Ain’t No More)

Western Centuries Songs From The Deluge

Carson McHone Carousel

Charlie Smyth The Way I Feel

Jimmy Rankin Moving East

Ashley McBride Girl Going Nowhere

Sean Burns and Lost Country Music For Taverns, Bars And Honky Tonks

Colter Wall Songs Of The Plains

Hunter Perrin Wild Card

Thomas Gabriel Long Way Home

Michael McDermott Out From Under

Mike and The Moonpies Steak Night at the Prairie Rose

Jesse Dayton The Outsider

Jim Lauderdale Time Flies

Pushing Chain Sorrows Always Swim

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers Years

JP Harris Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing

Ben De La Cour The High Cost Of Living Strange

Speedbuggy USA Kick Out The Twang

Blue Yonder Rough And Ready Heart

Jesse Daniel Self Titled

Sir Canyon Ventura Skies

Joshua Hedley Mr. Jukebox

Dallas Moore Mr. Honky Tonk

Cliff Westfall Baby You Win

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore Downey To Lubbock

Cody Jinks Lifers

Pistol Annies Interstate Gospel

Brent Cobb Providence Canyon

Ed Romanoff The Orphan King

Various Artists King Of The Road - A tribute to Roger Miller

Alejandro Escovedo and Don Antonio The Crossing

Some albums that hit the spot for this listener during 2018r in terms of their real country music content that came with equally striking covers (though the old adage that “you shouldn’t judge a book by the cover” is predominantly true). I find when the album has a well designed, well thought out cover, it usually means the music is equally well thought out and delivered. It is also more enticing to listen to given that quite often the cover is a pretty good clue to what it’s all about. Here, the clues all add up to some mighty fine country music that finds each act maintaining their individual sound.

1 JP Harris Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothin’

Harris has upped his game for his third album and incorporated some widersounds that are, however, still solidly country. 

2 Cliff Westfall Baby You Win

 On  this album, East Coast artist draws from a well spring of West Coast influences that includes a nod to Bakersfield and Dwight Yoakam.

3 Joshua Hedley Mr. Jukebox

The Nashville based artist has made a debut album that lays out his credentials and musical talent. This is inspired by the genre’s golden age, but is as important to today’s confused musical landscape. 

There were some equally vital albums this year from some strong and forceful women. Overall, I think the albums that came from a female perspective were among the most rewarding and the music was vibrant and again very individual in approach and attitude. The Pistol Annies collective delivered an album that was a strong as any of their individual releases if not more so. Shook, McBride and McHone all write songs that were  are true to their views of life, love and longevity.

4 Sarah Shook & The Disarmers Years

 Her second album for Bloodshot Records built on her tight but intense sound,

realised by her band on such telling songs as Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t.

5 Ashley McBride Girl Going Nowhere

This was a finger to those who thought she would never make it. She has brought attitude and ardent thinking to her songwriting and delivered a quality of music not that commonly found on a major label.

6 Carson McHone Carousel

A new name to many but this debut argued her case as one of the most interesting  talents who are playing their vision of country music with a diverse individuality and  vision intelligence.

7 Pistol Annies Interstate Gospel

Three artists who have made acclaimed albums in their own right but have also brought their A game to this project. These are not a roundup of left over songs but rather are the amalgamation of their writing and singing skills that works on many levels.

Names that were new to me this year, but knocked me out, with great album included Jesse Daniel who was able to translate some of the hard times he had been through into something that rang true and was tangible. Ben De la Cour’s new release further expounded on his American Noir sound that showed him as a storyteller who ranks with the best. Finally, Speedbuggy, USA’s forceful and energising take on cowpunk was a necessary kick to the system and saw the band release their best album to date.

8 Ben De La Cour The High Cost Of Living Strange

A new name to me but an artist with several previous releases to his name. He is right up there with the likes of Rod Picott and Slaid Cleeves as a contemporarystoryteller. He has the voice and melodic skills for these songs to remain in your head.

9 Speedbuggy USA Kick Out The Twang

This band have come through some difficult times to and continue to deliver their  hi-octane, hi-speed, roots rock. It’s not all hell for leather however and they show that  they can handle a slow song just as well.

10 Jesse Daniel Self Titled

Another writer who has drawn these songs from his own experience and observations. Hell Bent, Soft Spot (For The Hard Stuff) and Killing Time ’Til Time Kills Me are,despite the darkness of the titles, are heading into the light and a sense of redemption.

NB. The placings here are somewhat random as any of the contendor albums could easily be interchangeable in terms of their placing with those in the top ten.


Ags Connelly The Cobblestone

Legendary Shack Shakers Grand Social

Brent Cobb Whelan’s

Lindi Ortega Grand Social

Mavericks Vicar Street

Casey James Prestwood

Tyler Childers

Lillie Maeall at Pappy & Harriets, California

Emmylou Harris 3 Arena C2C

Roseanne Cash National Concert Hall

Sam Baker Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre



1 Eliza Gilkyson Secularia

A real highlight of the year. Her first release in four years and probably a career high. Pure perfection in all aspects. Her voice is as beautiful as ever, and those songs…

2 Gretchen Peters Dancing With The Beast

Real quality throughout from one of the best song-writers on the circuit today. 

3 Courtney Marie Andrews May Your Kindness Remain

Her high standards just keep getting more finely tuned and the writing is a joy throughout.

4 Mary Gauthier Rifles & Rosary Beads

Such an important project and so well delivered. Stirring, moving and vital.

5 Lori McKenna The Tree

Such a gift for writing truly great songs. Another fine example of her craft. 

6 Birds Of Chicago Love In Wartime

This duo delivers music that celebrates and lifts the spirit and the soul.

7 Brandi Carlile By The Way, I Forgive You

Three years since her last one but so worth the wait. Sublime song writing.

8 Willie Nelson Last Man Standing

To steal a sporting banner; Form is temporary; class is permanent. A true legend and another example of his rich tapestry.

9 The Pistol Annie’s Interstate Gospel

This collaboration should not work but it really delivers. A cohesive whole, delivered with some élan by three fine artists.

10 Rosanne Cash She Remembers Everything

Back in the studio after four years away and proving as vital and vibrant as ever.

11 Cowboy Junkies All That Reckoning 

A terrific return after many years away. Classy production and songs to back up their impressive back catalogue.

12Beth Nielsen Chapman Hearts Of Glass

Always a winner in the song writer stakes of delivering quality work. Unlucky thirteen? Not for this consummate artist; another cracker!


1 Cold Tone Harvest After You

Best surprise of the year. Stirring stuff throughout and a compelling listen.

2 Mulligan Brothers Songs For The Living and Otherwise

Addictive tunes and vibrant performance on their third studio release. Ross Newell is just getting better and better, both as a song writer and a vocalist.

3 Erin Rae Putting On Airs

Dream Country from such a talented song-writer and performer. Jump into this warm bath of sweet sounds.

4 Jaimee Harris Red Rescue

Debut release from a Texan artist who writes killer songs and delivers them with an impressive belief that her time has arrived. 

5 Martha L Healy Keep The Flame Alight

A second release from a Glasgow artist with so much talent yet to be unfurled. Great songs throughout.

6 Kim Richey Edgeland

Welcome back after 5 years away. Great song-writer and worthy of more success.

7 Ashley McBride Girl Going Nowhere

 Girl on a mission, more-like… Great songs and an even stronger attitude.

Bennett Wilson Poole Self Titled

Terrific trio that rock it up on a debut release that merited high praise.

9 Jimmy La Fave Peace Town

A posthumous release that showed just what an expressive artist he was.

10 John Gorka True In Time

His first in 4 years and shows that his song-writing is as perceptive as ever.

11 Tom Freund East Of Lincoln 

Superb collection of songs from a very underrated artist.

12 Jim Lauderdale Time Flies

A fine return to his best form and packed with great tunes.


Bert Jansch Just a Simple Soul

Bruce Springsteen The Album Collection Vol. 2, 1987-1996

Glen Frey Above the Clouds: The Very Best of

Buffalo Springfield What’s That Sound? The Complete Albums Collection

Gene Clark  Sings For You

Graham Nash Over The Years

Judie Sill Songs of Rapture and Redemption

Loudon Wainwight 111 Years in the Making

Tom Petty American Treasure

Bobbie Gentry The Girl From Chickasaw County. The Complete Capitol Masters


Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit Live from the Ryman

Bruce Springsteen Springsteen on Broadway


Mary Gauthier The Set Theatre, Kilkenny

Courtney Marie Andrews Whelan’s

The Lone Bellow Whelan’s

Gretchen Peters Liberty Hall

Birds of Chicago supported by The Remedy Club  Whelan’s & Cleere’s, Kilkeny

Dave Alvin The Set Theatre, Kilkenny

Deertick Whelan’s

Mulligan Brothers Naas & House Concert, Rathfriland

Dar Williams Workman’s Club

Peter Mulvey Workman’s Club

Kimmie Rhodes The Naul

Jess Klein supported by Beki Hemingway/Randy Kirkman Whelan’s

Jim White with Clive Barnes Whelan’s

AmericanaFest in Nashville The Lone Bellow, My Politic, Sons of Bill, Samantha Fish, Courtney Marie Andrews, Richard Thompson, Walter Salas Humara, 

Tom Freund, Erin Rae, Birds of Chicago and many more… Wonderful feast of music over 6 days.

Paul McGee: The year that was 2018:

There is the old saying;‘The more things change; The more they stay the same. In looking back at the year just gone, I must agree and little has changed from 2017 in regard to Country music and the direction that it has been steering. The continued shift towards Country Pop was even more evident and established artists all too keen to hitch their career-wagon to the new sounds of syncopated rhythms, rapped lyrics and big beat drum machines. Music always moves towards the centre in search of popular consensus and the charts, now dictated by digital downloads and streaming services, reflected an audience that increasingly wanted more of the commercial sounds that gets them moving on the dancefloor.

Outside of the bigger, established artists & bands, there seems to be little room for a career in the industry, what with the record labels more reluctant than ever to get involved with signing new talent. There are so many fine acts under the commercial radar, all trying to eke out a living and having to work day jobs while they balance their music obsession against the need to pay the bills. 

Royalties are almost non-existent these days with digital services and the streaming revolution not paying anything to the creators of the music. Hopefully this will change somewhat with the recent passing of the Music Modernization Act, which focuses on three major elements; all aimed at giving more revenue to the songwriters and creating a level playing field. 

Radio continues to ignore Female artists and choking their oxygen supply into mainstream acceptance. Despite this, headline acts like Kasey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert continue to forge successful careers against such apathy. Taylor Swift continued to fight against the big three; Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group in getting a better share for artist Revenue from such outlets as Spotify, Apple, You Tube and Amazon.

The breakthrough of independent artist Chris Stapleton and the CMA and ACM Awards was encouraging but his Country Rock sound and Bluesy vocal delivery is hardly the template for the market going forward. The sub genres of Country music continue to expand and the lines are blurred between Americana, Contemporary Folk, Roots, Rockabilly and Inde-Cow Punk sounds. 

Streaming services continue to outstrip physical CD sales and the need to support live music and emerging artists has never been more evident as the industry returns to a business model that was originally defined as a cottage industry…  activity carried on in musicians’ basements, garages, homes and local coffee houses. Hopefully, the quality of musical output will not diminish and the talent of unknown artists will somehow continue to endure. Here’s to 2019 and a more positive attitude to the joys of creating music that an audience will find transcending and vibrant.


There is nothing more rewarding than discovering talented artists previously unknown to me and 2018 was a big winner in this regard. No fewer than ten artists that appeared on my radar are included in my twenty favourites of the year with three females Kayla Ray, Hadley Mc Call Thackston and players over the past six months.

Equally satisfying during the year was the emergence of acts recording what I consider to be quality country music, despite the lack of industry support. Chris Stapleton’s breakthrough in recent years has led to several younger outlaw artists cropping up, together with industry recognition for other like-minded artists such as Dallas Moore, Whitey Morgan and Cody Jinks. Hopefully, the trend will continue this year.

The Albums

1 Kayla Ray Yesterday & Me

The album I kept returning to since it’s release. No compromise country album from  a young lady  whose writing matches her exquisite vocals. Honest and from the heart, Ray sounds as if she’s lived every line on the album.

2 Joshua Hedley Mr. Jukebox

Stunning debut on Jack White’s Third Man Records from the artist well known for his four-hourcover’s sessions at Robert’s Western World in Nashville. Evidence that Hedley is as adapt  adept at penning his own tearjerkers as he is at interpreting the work of others.

3 J.P.Harris Sometimes Dogs Bar At Nothing

Slight change in direction but an equally impressive collection of songs from East Nashville’s top man. Less honky tonk and more reflective than his previous outings, the album reinforces his ability to write material from a personal perspective that holds its own with any of his outlaw heroes.

4 Hadley Mc Call Thackston Self-Titled

Sensational debut from the young Georgia born Thackston, inspired by her relocation to Wolfe Island in Canada. Effortlessly blends old timey with folk and jazz leanings, there’s a divine innocence about the whole album from an artist that has the potential to establish herself as one of the break through acts of her generation in the Americana field.

Kristina Murray Southern Ambrosia

Described by J.P. Harris as the outstanding country singer in the industry at present, Murray’s killer second album proves that she is much more than the ‘go to’ backing vocalist in East Nashville. Songs written from difficult times and life experiences recall an early career Carlene Carter but with more edge and bite. A few decades back Murray would  have been a household name in country music and let’s hope the industry recognises her special talents and brings her music to the audience it deserves.

6 Cliff Westfall Baby You Win

Hands down album cover of the year but could the material do the package justice? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’! Westfall is another artist who cut his teeth in punk and cowpunk before revisiting the music of his early years growing up in small town Kentucky. Shades of early Dwight Yoakam and the ability to make you weep, toe tap and giggle in equal amounts. 

7 Courtney Marie Andrews May Your Kindness Remain

It seemed unlikely that Andrews could recreate the dizzy heights of her stunning 2017 album Honest Life. However, taking a slight change in musical direction, she still maintained the stand out quality of the album’s predecessor. Not surprisingly it ended up on numerous ‘Best of 2018’ listings.

8 Carson McHone Carousel

An album that continues to make its impact on me, sounding better of each listen. The Austin based Mc Hone has paid her dues playing honky tonk bars from the age of sixteen and Carousel is evidence that there’s so much more to her than that gorgeous dreamlike vocal. Songs that reveal an artist growing in confidence and maturity, Mc Hone seems destined to follow in the footsteps of Courtney Marie Andrews and make the deserved industry breakthrough. 

9 Pat Reedy & The Longtime Goners That’s All There Is And There Ain’t No More

No nonsense, straight down the middle country from ex-busker and building site labourer Pat Reedy. Simplicity is the key here with songs laced with hooks, twang, clever guitar breaks, no end of humour and Reedy’s trademark monotone and wonderfully accented vocal. Best album title of the year also!

10 H.C.Mc Entire Lionheart

A classic and deeply personal recording from the frontwoman with Indie outfit Mount Moriah. Lionheart confronts an unforgiving back-story of conflict and rejection from a gay woman whose love of her home State of North Carolina shines through, despite her exclusion. Equally impressive, both musically and lyrically, the album was inspired by the ‘coming out’ of established country singer Chely Wright in 2010. 

11 Amy Ray Holler

Sixth solo release from Indigo Girl Amy Ray and a career best. Covering the emotional baggage of a ifetime spent in Georgia, it reflects on the personal struggles of Ray and many of her fellow  Southerners. Production by Brian Speiser is particularly impressive introducing strings and horns alongside a vast array of instrumentation yet never sounding overcrowded. 

12 Bennett Wilson Poole Self-Titled

Written and recorded over a number of weekends as a side project, Bennett Wilson Poole quickly established themselves as a genuine U.K. super group with the release of their self-titled album. Three writers and vocalists could have spelled danger but on the contrary they managed to produce a consistently strong collection of songs.

13.Mike & The Moonpies Steak Night At The Prairie Rose

A fun album from start to finish by one of the outstanding Texas dance bands of their time. Everyday tales of life experiences both on and off the road and killer playing throughout.

14 Codi Parker & Jodi James The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound

Echoes of Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings from the Baton Rouge duo that combine gorgeous harmonies with equally impressive playing. A laid back treasure. 

15 Whitey Morgan & The 78’s Hard Times & White Lines

Modern day Outlaw Whitey Morgan’s sixth album has nods in the direction of Merle and Waylon.Recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas and self-produced by Morgan, it captures the full-on  sound perfected by Morgan and his 78’s relentless touring schedule.

16 Suburban Dirts I Want Blood

An unexpected gem from an unexpected source. An absorbing and exceptionally well researched  album of gothic and blood thirsty tales of pre-cowboy America all the way from Hoddesdon in Herefordshire.  

17 Lera Lynn Plays Well With Others

Following the 2016 release of her experimental indie folk album Resister, Lera Lynn returns to more familiar territory with a splendid Americana recording. Co-produced with John Paul White and ncluding co-writes with Andrew Combs, Dylan LeBlanc, Rodney Crowell and Nicole Atkins, it’s further confirmation of her talents as both a vocalist and songwriter.

18 Alejandro Escovedo The Crossing

Very much an album of its time, the tale of two young immigrants and their struggles surviving in the present day United States. Classic Escovedo, it mixes full on rockers with masterful balladry.

19 Carter Sampson Lucky

Business as usual from the Queen Of Oklahoma whose 2018 release matched the quality of its excellent predecessor Wilder Side. Mixing straight down the middle honky tonk, rockabilly and country ballads is Sampson’s forte and her gorgeous vocals do just that from start to finish on Lucky.

20 Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis Wild! Wild! Wild!

Surely one of the most underrated and underappreciated artists of the past three decades, Fulks often suffers from his versatility and ability to effortlessly switch genres. He’s lost some fans and industry support along the way as a result of his musical globetrotting, but continues to record albums of the highest standard. His co-release with Jerry Lee Lewis sister Lina Gail is up there with his best, a belting mix of country, rockabilly, gospel and rock n roll. 


Gig of the year at 3rd & Lindsley Nashville. Three of the best on the same bill!  

1 J.P.Harris / Jaime Wyatt / Mike & The Moonpies – 3rd & Lindsley Nashville

The Rest: 

2 Courtney Marie Andrews Whelan’s

3 Marlon Williams Whelan’s

4 HC Mc Entire The Mercy Lounge, Nashville

5 Jason James  Acme & Seed, Nashville

6 J.P. Harris & The Tough Choices Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, Glasgow

7 Mary Gauthier  The Set, Kilkenny

8 Hadley Mc Call Thackston Static Roots, Oberhausen

9 Bennett Wilson Poole  Static Roots, Oberhausen

10Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis  American Legion, Nashville

11 Peter Bruntnell Trio Cleere’s, Kilkenny

12 Emmylou Harris O3 Arena

13 This Is The Kit Whelan’s

14 Rosanne Cash National Concert Hall

15 Pat Reedy  The Underground, Nashville

16 Colter Wall The Station Inn Nashville

17 Sam Outlaw  Oron Mor, Glasgow

18 Susto St. Andrews, Glasgow

19 The Sleepwalkers Kytelers, Kilkenny

20 The Cordovas Static Roots, Oberhausen


Compiling a “Best Of” list is a daunting task every year but this time it’s very different. For starters I have no safety net in the person of our beloved and very sadly missed editor and matriarch of all things Country, Sandy Harsch. We lost Sandy physically a few short weeks back but for me, her spirit and attention to detail are so embedded in my daily broadcasters diary that I’m constantly ready to dodge that Lightning Bolt from Above if I err in even the smallest detail. Sandy will be forever in our hearts and all my Lonesome Highway endeavors will be spiritually checked by her before passing them on to All Y’all Lonesome Highwaymen out there.

Secondly there has been a seed change in the release method of new music in my Bluegrass and Beyond world in the last year or so. All the major artists are drip feeding us radio buffs with a few singles prior to new albums hitting the airwaves. As a result the quality of new music has risen to astounding levels and made my task of selecting a Best Of list harder than ever before.

So below you’ll find my twenty most played CDs in alphabetical order of artists names because to single out any one project or to rearrange them in a “Top 20” style would be totally unfair to all the amazing work being done to put “Bluegrass” in all it’s current forms right out there where the whole listening audience can fully appreciate just how talented this long ignored genre really is.

The Albums

1 Brandon Lee Adams Time That I Was Leaving

Probably my eureka album of the year. Been internet friends with this guy for years but a few listens to this album really showed me what a fine Singer, Songwriter and Guitar Player he is. Deffo one to watch for the future.

2Brandon Rickman What Kids And Dogs Know

I keep bumping into this fella all over the acoustic music world in all his different joint efforts but  this solo album just keeps me locked in his whirlwind of great listens. Super talented guy. Check him out.

3 Cindy G Moonshiners Daughter 

Produced by rising star producer Jim Van Cleve this stunning album is both a musical and visual treat and has placed this long hidden talented lady where she needs to be in the Bluegrass Cosmos. Highly and selfishly recommended. 

4 Del McCoury Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass

Although he has unbuckled the family safety harness and let the “Travelling McCoury’s” find their own way in the world Del just has to do what he does best since God was a Boy. He’s still singing Bluegrass as good as he ever did. Another fan favourite.

5 Dennis K Duff  Songs From Lyon County

Huge thanks to my old pal Martha Moore for the intro to this little gem which became the first ever album that I played track for track on all my radio shows. Another un-mined gem of a songwriter that  needs further research and a superb line up singers to highlight his talent.

6 Earls of Leicester Live at the CMA Theater

This one needs no help from me. It’s simply Jerry Douglas and his Bluegrass All Stars having a ball at  a live show. Grab some popcorn and sit back for a full nights concert. As good as it gets. 

7 Jim Lauderdale Time Flies

He’s still everybody’d favourite musical buddy. Jim rewards us with a selection typical gems that found plenty of airtime on all my radio show. Also got my first ever photo on a Jim Lauderdale album.

8 John DuffeyTribute Artists Epilogue

These few lines can’t begin to do justice to this mammoth project to honour the memory and contribution of the long time front man of The Country Gentleman and The Seldom Scene. 14  tracks and twice that many of music’s finest make this one that needs to be in everybody’s favourite’s archive. It’s in mine for sure.

9 Larry Cordle Tales from East Kentucky

Maybe he’s trying to punish the industry moguls for the “Murder on Music Row” but The Mighty Cord just keeps on stuffing my archive with one CD after another of pure listening pleasure. A humble and super talented gent may he long continue to turn out albums of this style of storytelling  magic.

10 Midnight Skyracer Fire

The first release from UK based all girl Bluegrass superstars in the making is just a pointer to their on stage electrifying performance. While I mourn Tabitha Agnew’s sidestep from Cup O’Joe and the swallowing up of the Carrivick Sisters the sum of the parts simply says watch these gals. They’re a force to be reckoned with.

11 Mike Mitchell Small Town 

My long time friend Mike Mitchell’s story of survival against all the all the health odds that life can  throw could have swayed me in my review of this his latest CD. But no, this is one of those albums that grabs you by the earlobes and just makes you sit back and listen to all the little word and music sparkles that this soon to be finally recognized super cool nice guy has laid out for us in his “small town.”

12 Missy Raines Royal Traveller

First introduced to me as the bass boss in Claire Lynch’s band I have grown to admire this pillar of cross genre country based music in all the years I’ve listen to Bluegrass music. An early in ’18 release of “Swept Away” a single the launched the “First Ladies of Bluegrass” and heralded an album that takes a few listens to fully appreciate but “Royal Traveller” is definitely there for the long haul.

13 Mountain Home Family Come See About Me

When the Bluegrass community decides to do a fund raiser they do it in style. The Mountain Home Family under the baton of Doyle Lawson and Mickey Gamble put together an 11 track Gospel tinged tribute for the IBMA trust fund that is never far from my hand. The 2nd ever album to get track by track cover on all my shows. It’s still available to help our less well off bluegrass buddies.

14 Rhonda Vincent Bluegrass Legends Live At The Ryman

One of the highlights of my year was to finally get to sit and chat with the amazing bluegrass icon  the is Rhonda Vincent and as a parting gift she gave me a copy of her Live at The Ryman with Bluegrass Legends Jesse McReynolds, Mac Wiseman and Sonny and Bobby Osborne. “Nuff said, just go and get it. It’s a classic.

15 Rick Lang Gonna Sing Gonna Shout  

The first release on Jerry Salley’s new Billy Blue Records label. It features the song writing talents of one of Bluegrass’s finest and yet to be fully appreciated woedsmiths. Far too many superstar singers to list off but this is one of my top Bluegrass Gospel albums for many years.

16 Sister Sadie Sister Sadie ll

Dale Ann Bradley. Tina Adair, Gina Britt, Deanie Richardson and Beth Lawrence as Sister Sadie are destined to hit the record books as the best ever All Girl Bluegrass band of all time. Live or ecorded they are “Chicken Soup For The Soul”. This is obviously their 2nd release and perfectly highlights their solo and combo skills. Just a joy to listen to. Highly recommended.

17 Tellico Woven Waters

This one sneaked up on me as a download from AirPlay Direct and I have raving about it on air  before I checked out the band’s background and I found out that I had been previously just as enthusiastic about their original incarnation as Dehlia Low. If this is what’s happening to hardcore North Carolina mountain music then long may it continue. If you like Gillian Welsh, you’ll love this.

18 Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes What We Leave Behind, A Songwriters Collection

This on just arrived on my lap a week or two before Christmas and is set to be one of my favourite albums for many years. Blue Highway front man Tim Stafford and his long time school pal have turn out a 14 track cross genre masterpiece that is best summed up in my ace from the pack “Keep It Merle.” It’s a beaut.

19 We Banjo 3 Haven

This latest offering from the CeltGrass supergroup of the brothers David and Martin Howley and Enda and Fergal Scahill was a calculated leap in the dark that has paid off in spades with the bands audiences on their tour circuit mainly in the US. I’ve watched them grow in confidence since  they were actually three young fellas playing mainly Irish Trad to packed festival audiences here. With all tracks written in-house and a stellar lineup of support musicians this is yet another page in the ongoing legend that is WB3.

20 The Willis Clan Speak My Mind

It’s not for me to comment on the family hardships that preceded this outspoken and soul bearing set of uplifting lyrics and musical inspirations. With the band tightened from the original 12 piece full family stage show to a mind blowing and really talented 6 piece of the elder siblings they have opened their hearts, minds and souls to the world at large. This is a sit down and listen deeply, album and with a totally off the wall version of “Ring of Fire” to wrap it up these kids are a force to be reckoned with, right across the whole musical spectrum.


Even though I’m not going to as many live gigs as I did in the past with my weekly radio shows taking up most of my free time it would still take a small book to comment on all the great acts that I did get to see during the year. If this list is what I got to see can you imagine what I missed so I really appeal to all you loyal Lonesome Highwaymen and Women to keep supporting as many live gigs as possible to be sure that al these great acts keep coming over that extra few miles to add Ireland to their tours. 

Here we go with just a small comment where I need to brag and no insult to acts that are too numerous to mention at festivals and major gatherings.

Greg Blake Band and Sarah Savoy at Midwinter Fest in Bunratty Great year opener as always.

Emmylou Harris, Margo Price, Kasey Musgraves and Faith Hill & Tim McGraw C2C Dublin. Best of a very mixed bag of New Country

Chris Jones and the Night Drivers - snow afflicted Nationwide tour

Pete Cummins and Terry Woods reunion in Whelans. Need to see these two old pals more often

Nashville TV Show Live Final Tour 3 Arena. I’ll really miss seeing these guys.

Keifer Southerland Academy, Dublin. Way better than I expected

Omagh Ulster American Folk Park Festival is always my Bluegrass Highlight of the year. Check the website for a full list but the biggie for me was meeting up again with Darin and Broke Aldridge. Best duo on any circuit anywhere.

Gretchen Peters Liberty Hall, Dublin. This superstar needs to come back more often

Home Free with support from Jeffrey East. My surprise laid back gig of the year.

Seamie O’Dowd, Mairtin O’Connor and Mairghead NiDhoghnaill in Whelans. This was my main Trad fix of the year. Love them all as soloists as well.

IBMA fest in Raleigh in September. Wow and double wow. Highlights only here of a full week in Bluegrass Heaven. Everyone I met I had already seen on CD covers through the years. Absolute highlights were seeing Patty Loveless at last, meeting Rhonda Vincent and the live in the round with songwriters Brink Brinkman, Shannon Slaughter and Jerry Salley. Otherwise no sleep for 3 days and ticked every major Bluegrass act in the world off my must see list.

Time Jumpers Nashville. Enough said - Best Live Band in the World bar none.

Allison Krauss with Ron Block and The Cox Family 3 Arena Blues Fest and Harmony Heaven for me.

Thomas Gabriel. Johnny Cash’s grandson is the real deal and not to be missed when he comes back this year.

BlackBerry Smoke closed out my year. Noisy but hardcore Southern Rock as I remember it.



1Joan Baez The Waterfront, Belfast

2 Jeff Scroggins & Colorado  Ardara Bluegrass, Co Donegal

3 Seamus Fogarty, Billy Byrnes Kilkenny Roots

4 Bennett Wilson Poole Cleeres, Kilkenny Roots

5 Courtney Marie Andrews The Black Box, Belfast

6 Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band Omagh Bluegrass Festival

7 Richard Thompson The Empire, Belfast

8 Molly Tuttle & Rachel Baiman The Green Room, Belfast

9 Mary Gauthier The Set Theatre, Kilkenny Roots

10 Rodney Crowell The Portico, Ards


This year we profoundly miss the end of year best of list contribution from Sandy. She is much missed by us all here at Lonesome Highway, yet her spirit is still with us in the music we play and listen to.

2017 - The Year In Review


The scope of what falls under the umbrella of Americana and Hardcore Country music has changed considerably since Lonesome Highway first published. The original motivation was to cover a variety of artists who played music that was directly influenced and describable as “country music” and who received little mention in the more mainstream media. It’s pretty much still that way and many of the artists we have featured online and on the Lonesome Highway Radio Show (Monday 11.30 -12.30 Dublin City FM103.2) are largely unknown quantities for most they are all making music that is worth discovering.

This year is no exception. Names like Colter Wall, Wes Youssi, Zephaniah Ohora, Jamie Wyatt and Jade Jackson are all ones that will doubtless continue to make great albums while some other relative newcomers like Nikki Lane, Sam Outlaw, Turnpike Troubadours and Laura Benitez continue to do so alongside such veterans as Marty Stuart, Moot Davis and Slaid Cleeves continue their individual musical paths with career highs. All the time expanding and refining their craft.

The kind of music that we all like to listen to here at Lonesome Towers has been rewarding and refreshing. There are always artists on the fringes who are making great music. In that light we thanks all the artists, PR companies, labels and others who pass on their music for us to consider for reviewing. It is a privilege. Not everything, for one reason or another makes the cut, and some of the artists who we would like to review or interview are not always readily available. 

There has always been an ongoing debate about what is country and what its not. Something that has been going on for over 50 years and will continue. The central pretext is the might dollar. It is what motivates the industry and has always done so - to think differently would be a falsehood. Of course there have been anomalies that allow for hope that the industry might move away from the bro-county, male-dominated, shallow advertising friendly output that dominates the charts and mainstream radio. Chris Stapelton, Sturgill Simpson, Aaron Watson and Jason Isbell have all made big inroads in the charts and in the hearts of many who are looking for something more substantial. While there are really only two kinds of music: good and bad - the subjective and individual preferences we all have cause us to make our own choices as to what fits any particular genre category ourselves. 

All we can do at Lonesome Highway is point you in a direction, with our choices, that we hope you will enjoy.

On a personal note as I sat down to consider the notion of a Top Twenty I made a list of some of the albums which impressed me, for a variety of reasons, over the last year. To illuminate the many options I had I have decided to include that list and in the full knowledge that I may have forgotten a good album along the way. Bringing these down to a list of twenty was an equally difficult task. But under orders from Mr. Culliton I have made that choice and although numbered from one to twenty the order could easily change from day to day!

But needs must, so: 

1 Turnpike Troubadours A Long Way From Your Heart

Some Alt.Country styled songwriting that is never retro while sounding like honest to god country music. The imagery matches the performance and is outstanding on both fronts. Reminds me of the late great Backsliders.

2 Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives Way Out West

Fabulous and Superlative indeed with the band every much a part of it;s creation as it’s leader. Stuart is now a genuine candidate to step into the boots of those that in spired him. 

3 Wes Youssi & The Country Champs Down Low

Portland, Oregan based graphic designer has also designed his music to please any lover of unpretentious hard-core country, Solid, dependable and a labour of love from all involved.

4 Said Cleeves Ghost On The Car Radio

There is an added toughness to this Scrappy Jud Newcomb produced album. It again showcases Cleaves crafted and rewarding songwriting that has empathy and ebullience that goes from the concern of Drunken Barber’s Hand to the old-school country of The Old Guard.

5 Jamie Wyatt Felony Blues

The debut release from a singer/songwriter who had previously recorded some unreleased tracks. This mini-album features songs that relates to her time spent in prison from drug related issues. It will appeal to those who like some toughness in their music.

6 Moot Davis Hierarchy of Crows

A change of direction from Davis. This one rocks hard as well as hitting the honky-tonk dance floor.Some may not have likes this approach but to these ears it was diverse and diverting from the titles tracks Zeppelinesque feel to the country twang of What’s The Matter With Me.

7 Jeremy Pinnell Ties Of Blood and Affection

The somewhat scary looking Pinnell made an album that built on his debut release and moved from the dark side to something more positive, but not without moments of darkness and doubt. A tight and solid piece of work that reminded you that he loves this music as much as we do and that everything doesn’t have to up lightweight fluff.

8 Nikki Lane Highway Queen

Her latest album is her best yet and this stylish singer has co-produced an album with a contemporary sound that never looses sight of its intentions. Recorded in Texas and Tennessee it has a foot in both camps and a head and heart that acknowledges the lineage of the many strong woman in country music.

9 Casey James Prestwood Born Too Late

Was going to dismiss this cracker of an album because of a 2016 release date credit but saw it featured in a lot of list for this year. It deserves to be there because of top notch honky-tonk songs and a good band in The Burning Angels and occasional guests including Lloyd Green, Bill Kirchin and Kenny Vaughan.

10 Zephaniah Ohora This Highway

Another new name who is firmly playing music that is not going to fit any other category other than Honky-tonk, Bakersfieldstyle country. This New York native has guitarist/producer Jim Campilongo and steel player Join Graboff as featured album players for his original songs. Doer Freeman joins him for the sole cover Somethin’ Stupid.

11 Ags Connolly Nothin’ Unexpected

The UK also turned out some fine recordings this year including My Darling Clementine’s Still Testifying. Ags latest release is right up there in terms of quality, production, writing and singing. Dean Owens produced and kept it local. 

12 Sunny Sweeny Trophy

With the likes of Brandy Clark and Miranda Lambert for writing songs relevant to a female point of view this little gem should not be overlooked. Contemporary enough to be on a major label (as she once was) but better under her own guidance on her own independent label. For a prime example try Better Bad Idea.

13 Tyler Childers Purgatory

This album, produced by Sturgill Simpson, announced a new talent with a old heart. This is traditional with a touch ofthe outlaw attitude that is prevalent at the moment but Childers proves himself on of the best, Simpson’s production is just right and reminds you that Simpson still has an affinity for the right stuff.

14 Laura Benitez and The Heartache With All Its Thorns

As the title suggest that life is to be lived despite it’s pricks and pains. Benitez and her band The Heartache play with an upbeat intention that even when the lyrics may suggest something different is positive and pleasurable. It has a distinct border feel on some tracks that is a delight.

15 Jade Jackson Gilded

Another woman with her own mind and metal. Her songs got the approval of Social Distortion’s Mike Ness a man who is not unfamiliar with the joys of playing country music himself. It is fat free and as far from Nashville mainstream as one could wish for.

16 Sam Outlaw Tender Heart 

After the acclaim of his Ry Cooder produced album Outlaw helms this album himself and shows that he has learnt from the experience and continues to define is own sound rooted in LA country music. He continues to impress and has a growing audience in Europe.

17 Amber Cross Savage On The Downhill

Another powerful combination of words, vocal and playing. On her third album Cross shows just how good she is. Producer Ray Bonneville gathers a crew of players like Rick Richards and Gurf Morlix to bring her songs to a place that best shows off just what a fine artist she is. 

18 Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters Self Titled

Platt takes the spotlight on this album and produces. She has proven herself a songwriter and singer of note andmoves on to the next stage. She is the equal of some of her better know contemporaries and with music this good may soon join their ranks. Country music played with heart.

19 JD McPherson Undivided Heart & Soul

The third album from the rock ’n’ roll and should influenced singer/songwriter is his best yet with a strong support from his long time band that includes bassist Jimmy Sutton. This one rocks and proves that his music will survive and thrive after moving on from a major label deal.

20 Jeffrey Martin One Go Around

From the opening track Poor Man this reveals itself largely as a melancholic collection of songs that look at the sad and often unexposed underbelly of the lower strata of society. Martin does it in a way that evokes empathy while also not be afraid to delve into personal failings. This is all done in a musical style that is arresting Americana.


Any of these could easily have made it into the Top Twenty on a given day. All are worthy of investigation.

Moot Davis  - Hierarchy of Crows

Ags Connolly - Nothin’ Unexpected

The Country Side of Harmonica Slim - A Drink After Midnight

Lillie Mae - Forever and Then Some

Margo Price - All American Made

Sunny Sweeney - Trophy 

Colter Wall - Self Titled

Zephaniah Ohora  - This Highway

Rick Shea - The Town Where I Live

Amber Cross - Savage On The Downhill

Turnpike Troubadours - A Long Way From Your Heart

Petunia and The Vipers - Lonesome Heavy and Lonesome

Steve Earle and The Dukes - So You Wannabe An Outlaw

Jeremy Pinnell - Ties of Blood and Affection

Tom Russell - Folk Hotel

Chris Hillman - Bidin’ My Time

Jace Everett - Dust & Dirt

Jeffrey Martin - One Go Round

Porter &The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes - Don’t Go Baby, It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You

Wes Youssi & The Country Champs - Down Low

Laura Benitez and The Heartache - With All Its Thorns

Ray Scott - Guitar For Sale

Said Cleaves - Ghost On The Car Radio

Jim White - Waffles, Triangles & Jesus

John Moreland - Big Bad Love

Christopher Rees - The Nashville Songs

Lilly Hiatt - Trinity Lane

JD McPherson Undivided Heart & Soul

Kacy & Clayton - The Siren’s Song

Nikki Lane - Highway Queen

Justin Townes Earle _ Kids In The Street

Matt Patershuk - Same As I Ever Have Been

Ciara Sidine - Unbroken Line

My Darling Clementine - Still Testifying

Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters - Self Titled

Jamie Wyatt - Felony Blues

Jade Jackson - Gilded

Jason Eady - Self Titled

Angaleena Presley - Wrangled

Sam Outlaw - Tender Heart

The Mavericks - Brand New Day 

Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives - Way Out West

Miss Tess - Baby, We All Know

Rodney Crowell - Close Ties

Charlie and The Regrets - Rivers in the Streets

The Deslondes - Hurry Home

Chris Stapleton - From A Room - Vol. 1

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound

Tyler Childers - Purgatory

Slaid Cleeves - Ghost On The Car Radio

Casey James Prestwood - Born Too Late

Gigs of the Year

The standout, on many levels, was the criminally under attended Slim Cessna’s Auto Club in Whelans. The other notable live events were Margo Price in The Button Factory, James McMurtry in Whelan’s Michael McDermott at the DC Club, Eilen Jewell in The Sound House and Western Centuries at The Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival.



If Country music is defined as a true reflection of the environment and society within which it exists, rooted in story songs that mirror the push & pull of daily living; then the Industry barometer of the CMA Awards is in need of a sharp reality-check. 

The latest ceremony showed itself to be without real direction and posed the confusing question as to who is behind the decisions that promote certain artists and records on the night.

Can we really consider as truly representative of the industry, the pairing of Jason Derulo and Luke Bryan, or allowing the strange collaboration of Kenny Chesney with P!nk; before Alicia Keys and Maren Morris were granted licence to deliver a glossy version of country-soul, smothered in strings. Keith Urban carried away four separate awards as his latest release, Ripcord, continued the increasing trend in taking a turn into hip-hop and electronic influences, country-pop that allows for loops and beat heavy drum machines. There’s a lot to criticize about the hip-hop beats of contemporary acts, but there is ample evidence that the roots of country music have always flirted with mainstream recognition and pop culture.

Country music radio, with restricted play lists, continues to ignore the increasing number of Female Artists who are forging careers and the likes of Angaleena Presley; Nikki Lane; Brandy Clark; RaeLynn; Kelsea Ballerini; Whitney Rose; Lilly Hiatt and Lily Mae fight for recognition, along with countless others, in a seemingly overcrowded marketplace. There are an equivalent number of male artists also elbowing forward for room at the front of the queue for recognition and success,  but the road for their female counterparts seems to be stonier and harder to climb.

The awful reality of the Route 91 Country Music Festival in Las Vegas and the mass shooting that left 58 people dead and 546 injured, was the defining moment of 2017. It placed the issue of gun control front and centre in an industry that has always reflected a conservative, religious and rural attitude; one which allowed Trump to garner blind support and which has always supported the Second Amendment. 

Tim McGraw spoke out about gun control where others were reluctant to alienate their core audience and if artists take his lead then we might see a positive backlash and some insight in the recorded output of Country music during 2018. 

Sam Hunt achieved a run of 34 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs and the highest-charting country song on the Hot 100 singles in four years with his song “Body Like A Back Road” -  record-breaking and just when I thought that Bro-Country was a dying beast…

This year we saw the passing of some great artists in Glen Campbell, Don Williams, Greg Allman, Chuck Berry, D.L. Menard, Fats Domino and Tom Petty. They all brought so much inspiration and rich variety to what we define as Country/Folk/Roots music and in their own passing, give the torch to others to carry into a future that is always shaped by what has gone before.

Top 12 Albums of the year:

1 Aaron Watson Vaquero

This collection of great songs highlighted an artist who is still calling all the shots in his career and not accepting compromise on any front. A great listen on every level.

2 Willie Nelson God’s Problem Child

The voice is as distinctive as ever and the song-writing has never been quite as astute. This music legend tackles and reflects upon some of the big questions as he turned 84.    

3 Glen Campbell Adíos

A sad loss to the music world and this release was both poignant and sensitive to the failing health of a talent that has influenced so many and brought joy across the decades of a distinguished career.

4 Rhiannon Giddens Freedom Highway

A release of great power and righteous anger in reflecting on the African American experience over time passed. Intense and impressive in both construct and delivery.  

5 Chris Stapleton From A Room: Volumes 1 & 2

Outlaw Country artist that ticks all the boxes. Great songs and terrific playing that prove the quality of this musician and built upon the initial success of his Traveler debut in 2015.

6 Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Nashville Sound

A song collection that shows the continuing maturity of this song-writer and his ability  to deliver on all fronts. A superb live act and a recording artist of growing influence. 

7 Lee Ann Womack The Lonely, The Lonesome and The Gone 

Three years since her last release, Lee Ann returned with a work of enduring, timeless quality. Her vocal delivery continues to be her real strength and the songs are equally compelling.

8 Sara Evans Words

Another superb record from an artist who returned after a three-year hiatus. Excellent songs delivered with confidence and passion from a talent who remains one of the best singers in Country music.

9 The Sadies Northern Passages

Always a class act and very much revered within the industry for their ability to create powerful records and live performances. One of Canada’s finest.

10 Steve Earle So You Wanna Be An Outlaw

A return to his Country roots with a very strong collection of songs and a great band to deliver them. This is a very welcome return to form. 

11 Courtney Marie Andrews Honest Life

A release that took the critics by surprise with her mature reflections on life and love plus a voice that really commands attention.

12 Margo Price All American Made

Impressive follow-up to the success of her debut release last year. She proves her ability to write songs with a broad influence and her confidence has grown in the studio as a result of increasing success.

Top Emerging Artists of the year:

Lonesome Highway originally came into being as an ally for artists who are not internationally recognised and to provide a filter and platform upon which their music could gain a wider audience. 

This continues to be our central ethos and the following artists have been reviewed by me over the past year and their recent releases are deserving of a place in any music collection:

The Novel Ideas Self Titled

Sands & Hearne Time Is A Line

Ryne Doughty Date Night

Worry Dolls Go Get Gone

Susan Catteneo The Hammer & The Heart

I Draw Slow Your Face To The Sun

The Remedy Club Lovers, Legends & Lost Causes

Beki Hemingway Whins & Weather

Romantica Shadowlands

Jesse Waldman Mansion Full Of Ghosts

Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards California Calling

The Wailin’ Jennies Fifteen


Various Artists The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson

Gillian Welch Boots No. 1

Dr. John The Atco Albums Collection

Tom Petty The Complete Studio Albums. Volumes: 1 & 2

Natalie Merchant The Natalie Merchant Collection 


Johnny Cash The Original Sun Albums (1957-1964)

Gene Clark The Lost Studio Sessions (1964 – 1982)

Fairport Convention Come All Ye: The First Ten Years 

George Jones Birth Of A Legend. The Truly Complete Starday & Mercury Recordings 1954 – 1961

Clifton Chernier Louisiana Stomp. Recordings 1954 – 1960

Elvis Presley A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953 – 1955 Recordings


Best Live Gigs:

Margo Price The Button Factory

Maria McKee St Patrick’s Cathedral

James McMurtry Whelan’s

Hamell On Trial/Clive Barnes Whelan’s

Country 2 Country 3 Arena

Over The Rhine Unitarian Church

Jackson Browne Vicar Street 

Courtney Marie Andrews Whelan’s

Slim Cessna Auto Club Whelan’s

Jess Klein DC Club

Michael McDermott/Beki Hemingway DC Club

Eilen Jewell The Sound House


The year past was all the better for the introduction of many acts unknown to me twelve months ago. That six of these acts (Courtney Marie Andrews, Susto, Jade Jackson, Colter Wall, Zephaniah OHora and Rachael Baiman) made my favourite twenty albums of the year is testament to the strength of the industry in terms of emerging talent, notwithstanding the reality that the financial rewards are meagre for many artists, to say the least.

Fortunately, the live music scene in Dublin and further afield remains as vibrant as ever thanks to the work of the promoters, large and small, that continue to bring so many acts to Ireland despite the financial risks involved. The line up of visiting acts for the first half of 2018 is already incredible with Deep Dark Woods, Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, This Is The Kit, Courtney Marie Andrews, Robyn Hitchcock, Marlon Williams, Lucas Nelson, Willy Vlautin, Mary Gauthier, Damian Jurado, Hays Caryll, The Weather Station, Beth Orton, The Mavericks, Nikki Lane, The Blasters, Jeff Tweedy, Joe Henry, Iron & Wire, Randy Newman and The Secret Sisters all on their way to our shores.

I was once again fortunate to attend some excellent festivals this year in Kilkenny, Nashville, Oberhausen and Groningen, each special it its own way and each reviewed on our website.

Thanks to our readers for all the support for our Website, Facebook Page and more recently our weekly Radio Show on 103.2 Dublin City FM. Our Facebook ‘friends’ have increased from 260 to well over 1000 over the past two years giving us both the audience and the encouragement to plough ahead. 

Finally, and most importantly, a mention for Willie Meighan of Rollercoaster Records and much more who passed away last November. Willie was hugely proactive in bringing so much live music to Kilkenny and farther afield and one of the organisers of Kilkenny Roots Festival for many years.  He will be sadly missed but never forgotten by all that had the pleasure of knowing him. 

Here’s to a great and music filled 2018!   

International Albums

1 Margo Price American Made

Equally impressive successor to her superb debut solo album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. Broad lens material this time around as Price goes more political and less personal.  

2 Courtney Marie Andrews Honest Life

Nine years since the release of her debut album and still only 26 years old, Honest Life is a deserved industry breakthrough which finally brought her music to a large audience.

3 Andrew Combs Canyons Of My Mind

Spirituality and environmental issues dominate recently married Combs most impressive work to date.  A much fuller sound to his previous work.          

4 Zephaniah OHora This Highway

No frills traditional honky tonk at its finest from the New York resident with nods in the direction of Merle Haggard and Dale Watson. 

5 Susto @I’m Fine Today

Dreamy psychedelic Americana from South Carolina’s Susto with a sound that pushes out the musical boundaries in many different directions.

6 Jim White Waffles, Triangles & Jesus

WT&J’s finds Jim White at his personal soul-searching best with humour and passion always close to the surface. Repeated listening advised.

7 Jade Jackson Gilded 

Stunning debut from yet another young artist whose career kicked off with punk and morphed into raw country. For Lucinda Williams lovers.

8 Lillie Mae Forever and Then Some 

Jack White’s sidekick and fiddle player lets loose with a dazzling mixture of pure country and roots aided by brother Frank and sisters Amber-Dawn and Scarlett 

9 Hurrah For The Riff Raff The Navigator

A change in direction for the most talented Alynda Segarra with this fine concept album revisiting in style her Puerto Rican roots and early childhood in Brooklyn. 

10 Colter Wall Self Titled

Maturity decades beyond his years for the 22-year-old Wall, riveting tales of anguish and survival Townes Van Zandt style. Exceptional song writing described by Steve Earle as the finest he’s come across in the past 25 years. 

11 The Weather Station Self Titled

Following on from the quality of Loyalty (2015), Tamara Lindeman seventh album finds her coming out of her shell somewhat with a more aggressive and rocky feel and sounding all the better for it. 

12 Lilly Hiatt Trinity Lane

A career best three albums in for Nashville’s Hiatt. It’s a gutsy, personal album that tackles family issues and insecurities, all wonderfully it has to be said. Chip off the old block.

13 Jason Isbell The Nashville Sound 

Probably the best pound for pound songwriter of his generation, Isbell completes a hat trick of classic albums following in the footsteps of Southeastern (2013) and Something More Than Free (2015)

14 John Blek Catharsis Vol.1

Conceived in a hospital bed while being treated for an unwelcomed virus the album copper fastens Blek as one of the country’s most creative and talented song writers.   

15 Rhiannon Giddens Freedom Highway

The strongest protest album of the year from an artist who is not only a classic musician and vocalist but can now also add songwriter to those credentials.

16 Malojian Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home

No easy pigeon hole to categorise Stevie Scullion so let’s call this splendid album Americana for the purpose of including it here. A joy from start to finish.

17 Dori Freeman Letters Never Read

Business as usual for Freeman following her debut album released in 2016. Her stunning crystal-clear vocal is the show stopper once more. Produced by Teddy Thompson it also includes contributions from Aoife O’Donovan, Neal Casal and Kacy & Clayton. 

18 My Darling Clementine Still Testifying

Another gem from surely the most under rated UK act. Gorgeous vocal harmonies from Michael Weston King and Lou Dalglish who add a bit of blues this time around to their classic country sound.

19 Rachel Baiman Shame 

Proving that she’s more than a fiddle and banjo virtuoso, Baiman’s debut album Shame combines stunning playing with hardnosed lyrics that immediately brings to mind the work of Gillian Welch. 

20 The Deep Dark Woods Yarrow

After a four-year break Ryan Boldt and crew return with dark southern gothic tales beautifully delivered by his band and enhanced once more by some gorgeous backing vocals by Kacy Anderson (of Kacy and Clayton fame)


Irish Albums:

1 John Blek Catharsis Vol.1

2 Malojian Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home

3 Holly Macve Golden Eagle

4 Seamus Fogarty The Curious Hand

5 Jack Lukeman Magic Days 

6 The Remedy Club Lovers, Legends & Lost Causes

7 Richie Healy The Perilous Tree

8 Dovecote Self-Titled 

9 Marlene Enright Placemats & Second Cuts

10 Lankum Beneath The Earth & Sky



1 Hurrah For The Riff Raff Take Root, Groningen

2 Drive By Truckers Cannery Row, Nashville

3 Margo Price Button Factory, Dublin

4 Courtney Marie Andrews Whelan’s, Dublin

5 Peter Bruntnell & Band Cleeres, Kilkenny

6 J.P.Harris Mercy Lounge, Nashville

7 Lillie Mae Third Man Records, Nashville

8 Aaron Lee Tasjan Yee Haw Tent, Nashville

9 Lilly Hiatt Third Man Records, Nashville

10 Danny & The Champions of the World Static Roots Festival 

11 Rhiannon Giddens Whelan’s Dublin

12 Jim White with Clive Barnes Whelan’s, Dublin

13 Aimee Mann National Stadium, Dublin

14 John Prine with Amanda Shires Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin

15 Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles Static Roots Festival 

16 Andrew Combs Cleeres Kilkenny

17 Western Centuries Billy, Byrnes, Kilkenny

18 Brandy Clark/Jim Lauderdale Sugar Club, Dublin

19 Chuck Prophet Errigle Inn, Belfast

20 Zephaniah OHora Mercy Lounge, Nashville



Gigs Of The Year (This list is in no particular order):

1 Merlefest 2017 North Carolina

2 Jimmy Webb St James Church, London

3 Courtney Marie Andrews Bangor

4 John Prine & Sturgill Simpson Letterkenny

5 Karine Polwart A Pocket Of Wind Resistance Belfast Festival

6 James McMurtry Real Music Club, Belfast

7 Dale Ann Bradley UAFP Bluegrass & Old Time Festival, Omagh

8 Jackson Browne Vicar Street

9 Tristan & Jeff Scroggins Ardara Bluegrass Festival 

10 Margo Price & Aaron Lee Tasjan Celtic Connections, Glasgow

Ten Good Reason to Visit Kilkenny Rhythm & Roots Festival


Kilkenny Roots Festival is fast approaching and Lonesome Highway look forward to another May weekend of quality music, renewed friendships and lots more - for many reasons. Here are ten for starters.

Smithwick’s Music Trail

The Music Trail or ‘freebies’ are a vital ingredient of what makes Roots weekend so memorable annually and this year the festival organisers have surpassed themselves with the quality of artists and acts on offer. The difficulty for the punter is getting around The Marble City to take in as many as possible. This year’s trail includes Peter Bruntnell and Band playing four shows, yes four folks, in what could be a test of stamina and staying power for one of Kilkenny’s favourite adopted sons. It’s fair to say that Peter Bruntnell would most likely have sold out The Set Theatre had he been scheduled to perform there so do not miss the opportunity to witness, on at least one occasion, one of UK’s finest songwriters of the past decade. Also performing on four occasions over the weekend are Mothers Little Helpers, one of a number of projects associated with James Walbourne. Regarded as the premier UK guitarist of his generation, Walbourne’s other commitments include touring with The Pretenders and of course as a member with his wife Kami Thompson of The Rails who stole the show at Roots a couple of years back. Billy Byrnes pub on the Sunday afternoon of the festival is not the place to meet for afternoon tea or a quiet pint. Trouble Pilgrims have become resident there in recent years delivering their full on, punky, raucous sound, carrying on the tradition of their former lives as The Radiators from Space, the finest punk / new wave band from these shores. Winners of The Lonesome Highway’s coveted ‘best dressed band’ at last year’s festival, The Pilgrims will be expected to defend that accolade in style again this year. Kilkenny is also well represented by two acts that the locals get to see on a regularly. TV Jones and The Tomahawks live shows are always a festival highlight particularly on their home territory in Ryan’s Bar. Fronted by the coolest of cool Mr. Jimi Conroy these boys are the heart and soul of the festival but get to Ryans early or you won’t get in the door. For those that have the staying power to be still standing on the Monday evening The Barfly’s are a must. The locals get to see these guys perform every Sunday night at The Pumphouse so stay around to sample one of the most talented bunch of musicians with a huge repertoire of material to choose from. 

Carter Sampson

Not surprisingly the first act to sell out this year, The Queen of Oklahoma finally gets to perform in Ireland. A favourite of Lonesome Highway for some while Carter has the voice, the songs and the stories to have you checking out her back catalogue of outstanding albums.  

Holly Macre

The organisers of the festival have a happy knack of booking artists before they make an industry breakthrough and are still relatively unknown. Alabama Shakes, Duke & The King and Jason Isbell come to mind and they have struck gold again with Holly Macre, the Galway born UK resident. The twenty-one-year-old may have been a new name to many when invited to play Roots some months ago but has since been receiving rave reviews for her stunning and quite unique album Golden Eagle and her performances at SXSW in Austin in March, the second year in succession that she appeared at that festival.

Western Centuries

The opening act at any festival often sets the scene for what is to follow and needs careful consideration. Kicking off the festivities this year are Western Centuries a collaboration of three singer songwriters, talented blue grassers together with bass, pedal steel and drums. Their 2016 album Weight of the World featured in Lonesome Highway’s Best of 2016 so expect meticulous playing, harmonies to die for and bundles of fun. 

The Americans

It says a lot when you’ve appeared of The Late Show with David Letterman and T.Bone Burnett hails you as one of his favourite live bands. Welcome to The Americans whose rocking take on the American songbook will no doubt send us home sweating.

The Handsome Family

No longer have a band with a cult following The Handsome Family finally made the industry breakthrough they richly deserve following the selection of Far From Any Road as the theme song for the TV blockbuster True Detective. Even more satisfying is the fact that they have not  veered from or diluted their style since reaching a larger audience. Further evidence for under the radar and  fringe acts  that they can make it to the next level with a spot of good fortune 

Yola Carter

You could be forgiven for assuming Yola Carter hailed from Memphis Tennessee given her powerful unadulterated country soul vocal. Voted UK Artist of The Year at The AMA UK Awards this year, the former lead singer with Phantom Limb actually hails from Bristol and is another artist featured in the festival that has the potential to carve out a prolonged and successful industry career.

Joan Shelley

There is a gentle and somewhat understated quality to the music of Kentucky resident Joan Shelley. Breezy folk melodies delivered with a hypnotic vocal style that can silence a room in an instant. 

Rollercoaster Records

A visit to Kilkenny at any time of the year demands a visit to Rollercoaster Records (The happiest little record shop in the world!) and at Roots weekend it is the festival hub. Expect to rub shoulders with artists, locals, annual visitors and the proprietor Willie Meighan who plays a major role in the organisation of the festival together with promoting the stellar acts that play Kilkenny every other month of the year. Willie is more than ably assisted by Dave Holland who manages to keep smiling despite the pressures of his other commitments as sound engineer at many of the gigs over the weekend and killer guitarist with local band The Barflys. Gareth Kehoe, who promotes gigs in Waterford, is the latest addition to the music heads that manage this treasured outlet.  Be sure to grab a few albums when you’re in there too from his extensive selection.  

The Craic

Regardless of who performs at the festival the overall atmosphere is fun, comradery and friendship in the picturesque streets and many, many pubs and venues throughout the city.  So many lasting friendships have originated at the festival particularly from the overseas visitors who return each year be it from England, Scotland or further afield. The festival is financed on a tiny budget by the organisers who invest so much time and effort to host the best music small festival bar none. Lonesome Highway looks forward to renewing old acquaintances, hearing some great music and having the craic again this year. See you all there!

Review Of The Year 2016



Country Music, Roots Music,  Americana,  Ameripolitan- call it what you will. How do you, do we, define the music we listen to (and review)? When we started out doing Lonesome Highway it looked like we were able to cover all the bases. All the music we liked that seemed to fit our remit, but now I’m not so sure. Much of what is called ”country music” these days bears no relationship to the music I love and my personal definition of it.  Yet that music that first drew me in is still out there. The list below is a testament to that.  As long as I can remember there has not been a year without a significant number of albums that fulfil my need to listen to music that meant something on some level. Some are staunchly traditional in nature and could have been made anytime over the last several decades, while others have taken the form and transposed it into something more contemporary while retaining the spirit of the music. 

Perhaps the C2C Festival was a perfect example of the range of music that now fits under the corporate “country” umbrella. From out and out pop and hard rock/soft metal to those who, on record, have elements of country music in their sound but live are a much more boisterous affair to the more traditional elements of the outstanding Ashley Monroe and the long-standing Bakersfield influenced sound of Dwight Yoakum.

‘Something for everyone’ it could be argued and certainly the most interesting line-up for C2C at that point. Yet one wonders how well it would have gone down if it had been aimed at one sector or another.  Perhaps there is an opening for more small stages to feature up coming acts of one strand or another - as happened in the London staging of the event.

One thinks back to the show in the then Point Theatre that was headlined by the very mainstream and crossover Reba McIntyre yet also featured Brad Paisley and Ricky Skaggs as well as Wayne Hancock and The Derailers on the bill (not to mention your Lonesome Highway team doing between act DJ work and stage announcements).  A truly wide ranging and cosmopolitan line-up. Showing that the music can be many faceted but still include artists who are normally on the fringes. But times and tastes change, though the feeling is that in the mainstream you get what they want you to hear and see rather than what you might want - or at least have a chance you might not otherwise have to see some of these acts.  Then at least you can make up your own mind.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR  (in no particular order):

Luke Bell Luke Bell

Honeycutters On The Ropes

Jack Ingram Midnight Motel

Cody Jinks I’m Not The Devil

Dori Freeman Dori Freeman

Western Centuries Weight Of The World 

Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms Innocent Road

Margo Price Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Buddy Miller & Friends Cayamo Sessions At Sea

Dave Insley Just The Way That I Am

The Heresies I Want My Honky Tonk Back

The Cactus Blossoms Your Dreaming

All of these above albums stick close to an individual take on traditional country music.

Grant-Lee Philips The Narrows

Michael McDermott Willow Springs

Danny Schmidt Owls

The Handsome Family Unseen

Nate Currin The Madman And The Poet

Kacy & Clayton Strange Country

Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones Little Windows

Jesse Dayton The Revealer

Reckless Kelly Sunset Motel

While these albums explore a broader context that includes story telling in a roots rock, folk or country-rock way.


They all share an integrity and vision that remains true to the artist rather than a enforced PR idea of

what might sell in quantity or gain airplay on what is currently passing for “country radio” in the main.

They all deserve to but most likely won’t.


Gigs Of the Year

Lindi Ortega - Whelans, Dublin

Michael McDermott - Whelans, Dublin

The Cactus Blossoms  - Rough Trade, New York City

Blue Rodeo - Grand Social, Dublin

Chris Stapelton - C2C, Dublin

Ashley Monroe - C2C, Dublin

Joe Ely - BB King Club, New York City



2016 was a ruthless year in the music industry, taking the lives of Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Sharon Jones, Prince, Leon Russell and Glen Fry in the space of ten months.

By way of contradiction 2016 offered, for me, most probably the finest output of music, across many genres for many a year, resulting in an altogether challenging task of selecting year of end album, song and concert highlight lists. 

After much deliberation and mind changing my favourites in order of preference were: 

The Albums:

Richmond Fontaine You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To

Fittingly bowing out with a piece of work to match their best, Willy Vlautin both revisited characters from previous albums and introduced us to other unfortunate and desperate individuals. A brilliant swansong.

Margo Price Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Wonderful autobiographical tales delivered with honesty from an artist virtually unheard of twelve months ago. A true indication of what perseverance and belief in oneself can achieve, it took a lot of rejection before Jack White’s Third Man Records recognised the quality and signed Price to their label. 

Peter Bruntnell Nos Da Camrade

Possibly a career best from Bruntnell, one of the UK’s finest songwriters for many years. Equalling the dizzy heights of his 2002 classic Normal for Bridgwater. 

Dori Freeman Dori Freeman

Breath of fresh air from the 25-year-old from Virginia. Simple, crystal clear vocals, crafted song writing and fortunately benefiting from not being over produced.  

Neko Case, kd lang, Laura Veirs Case, Lang, Veirs

More than the sum of their parts, the challenge offered to them resulted in a piece of work to match any of their individual releases. 

Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles Soon Enough

Soon Enough found the young Nashville resident Rae out front rather than contributing backing vocals to other’s music. Beautifully delivered vocals and equally impressive songs from one of the finds of 2016.

Ryley Walker Golden Sings That Have Been Sung

Appropriate successor to 2015’s Primrose Green with Walker in more experimental form with his hypnotic mix of folk, psychedelic and free form jazz.

Carter Sampson Wilder Side

Finally making a deserved breakthrough in Europe the artist known as The Queen of Oklahoma repeats the high standard of her 2011 recording Mockingbird Sing.

Drive-By Truckers American Band

There most complete and strongest album since The Dirty South (2004) with the band tackling current thorny political issues and in particular racism. Not simply a protest album but one that questions with much concern what is exactly happening presently in their home country.

Marlon Williams Marlon Williams

The 24-year-old New Zealander’s debut album is a blend of Scott Walker vocals and Tim Buckley emotions with lashings of country twang on the side. It’s a lot of fun too!

Aoife O’Donovan In The Magic Hour

Delightful introspective concept album reflecting on freedom, childhood and mortality. The work in particular found O’Donovan exploring her Irish roots following the passing of her grandfather in Clonakilty, Cork where she spent many summers as a child.

 The Jayhawks Paging Mr. Proust

Featuring the line-up that appeared on Rainy Day Music in 2003, it’s business as usual with songs, harmonies and melodies to match that 2003 classic. 

Lucinda Williams The Ghost of Highway 20

More than a mere survivor, Williams has continued to challenge herself in recent years to attain the perfection she always strives for. The Ghost of Highway 20, in a similar vein to 2014’s Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, more than reaches her high standards. The common denominator on her current double album, is Interstate 20 which runs between Texas and Georgia and the various locations in between that inspired some of the most personal songs written by her.

Jim Lauderdale This Changes Everything

Back to basics for the prolific Lauderdale with a ‘country’ album afters 2015’s venture into Memphis soul with Soul Searching

Daniel Romano Mosey

Nudie suit replaced by a sombrero for Romano’s latest which experiments with a sound closer to the Mexican border than Nashville but which works every bit as well as his previous impressive output. 

John Blek Cut The Light

Quality set of songs from the prolific young Cork songwriter. More laid back than his work as leader of John Blek and The Rats and displaying an ability to pen classic folk songs with traditional leanings as well as the fuller sound of his writing with his band.

Aaron Lee Tasjan Silver Tears

An artist with the ability to amuse as well as excite the listener with his skills as a songwriter, musician and indeed performer. Silver Tears is a further indication as to why comparisons are being made with big hitters Todd Snider and Hayes Caryll. 

Amanda Shires My Piece of Land

A mature and reflective recording from an artist that improves album on album. Shires and her husband Jason Isbell appear to be both benefiting in creative terms since their marriage. Long may it last.

Elizabeth Cook Exodus of Venus

Reflection on a period of personal turmoil, Cook has produced an album that compares with her best, often dealing with painful and personal issues. Not anywhere as much twang as her previous work but from the heart and with Dharma Gate she has recorded one of the most beautiful songs of the year.

Hayes Caryll Lovers & Leavers

Personal stories closer to home than on his previous albums but every bit as impressive from one of the most talented song writers in the Americana genre.  


 Gene Clark  American Dreamer 1964-1974

Superb body of work featuring twenty four tracks from The Byrds, Dillard and Clark, The Flying Burritos and Clark’s solo work. 

Gillian Welch Revival

A thrilling revisitation of her debut album.


The Shows:

Margo Price at the Deaf Institute, Manchester

Jason Isbell at the O2 ABC Glasgow

Richmond Fontaine at St. Patricks Gateway, Waterford

Dori Freeman at Cannery Row, Nashville

Natalie Merchant at The Olympia, Dublin

Dylan LeBlanc at The Anchor, Nashville

Peter Bruntnell at Ryan’s, Kilkenny

Giant Sand at Whelan’s, Dublin

Marlon Williams at The Mercy Lounge, Nashville

Hayes Caryll at The Set, Kilkenny



The Year in Review – 2016

It is a well-worn statement that reminds us “constant change is here to stay” and nothing could ring more true when I look at the state of things across the broad spectrum that is classed as Country Music today.

We have the similar adage that “change is good”, so as things move on, you would expect that they improve over time…

Well, when the year ends with Beyoncé appearing onstage at the CMA Awards singing with the reformed Dixie Chicks (watch out Trump) and Garth Brooks wins Entertainer of the Year at the same headline event; you just have to wonder…

At least there was due recognition for Dolly Parton with a Lifetime Achievement Award and for Randy Travis who appeared onstage for the first time in public since his stroke to rapturous applause. Signs that the industry hasn’t lost all its’ class yet…

Sadly, Country music radio is choking the life out of the Industry with restricted play lists and no opportunity for new artists to have their music heard across the U.S.A.

I think back to Elvis and the impact he had in the 1950’s when rockabilly changed the way that teenagers listened to what was the Country sound of the time. 

Forward to the Eagles in the 1970’s and the introduction of a commercial rock sound into what was popularised as Country-Rock.

Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw gave us big-hat stadium country into the 1990’s and in the last decade everything exploded with other musical genres crossing over into country territory as the urban shift to the big cities continued at a pace for the next generations of rural kids who grew up listening to their Parents’ record collections.

Country Rap and hip-hop influences have been emerging with plenty of looped beats and hard driving syncopated rhythms and synth drums filling out the sound of many contemporary country music artists.

At least Bro-Country seems to have run out of road and all those trucks where everything was supposed to happen have ground to a halt and started to rust – good riddance!! 

The future will certainly be different to anything we can imagine but whether country music ever returns to its’ roots is highly debatable. In the year where we lost the legendary Merle Haggard perhaps the past is better left where it was & that is in the past …

 Top 12 Albums of the year:

 The Ghosts of Highway 20 - Lucinda Williams

 The queen of bittersweet reflection is still calling the shots with this compelling 2-disc release 

Down To My Last Bad Habit - Vince Gill

 The voice is as pure as ever and the soulful playing just reminds me how good he has always been. Pure class.

You Can’t Go Back If There Is Nothing To Go Back To - Richmond Fontaine

 Wonderful music and a storyteller’s gift for lyrical narrative. This wonderful band called it a day this year but what a way to bow out.

Reckless - Martina McBride

Back to her best with the first release in 5 years. This veteran of the microphone can still sing most of the opposition into a country cocked hat.

The Things That We Are Made Of  - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Call her Folk or call her Country, Mary still holds the contemporary crown for literary song-writing and sweetly sourced melody.  A real gem.

The Weight of These Wings - Miranda Lambert

Her body of work is building nicely and this was the sign of a mature woman coming out of the crowd of young developing artists to deliver a song collection that is both moving and of enduring quality.

American Band - Drive-By Truckers 

Still a distance above any pretenders to their throne. The riffs and rhythms are as strong as ever and the songs hit hard with an angry political statement about the state of the U.S.A. One of their best.

In The Magic Hour - Aoife O’Donovan

 An excellent song collection from this blossoming talent which puts her into the Premier League of ‘ones to watch’.

Exodus Of Venus - Elizabeth Cook

 What a strong return after a 6-year absence. Songs that visit deeply personal matters are addressed with plenty of grit and rousing sassy class.

Little Seeds - Shovels & Rope

Always a joy to listen to this duo who have delivered another strong collection of songs that have swagger and passion.

Robert Ellis - Robert Ellis  

 A very under-rated song-writer who delivers another quality album filled with life lessons and reflection.

Scheherazade - Freakwater

First release in 11 years and what a wonderful example of classy mature song-writing and harmony singing from 2 ladies on the dark side of Country introspection.


Emerging artists:

All the following artists have been reviewed by Lonesome Highway over the past year and are deserving of a place in any music collection. Terrific releases, one ‘n’ all;

Long Time Leaving - Christa Couture

Starlight Highway - Corinne West

Muscle and Bone - Peter Gallway

The Poet and the Rose - Buford Pope

Soon Enough - Erin Rae & the Meanwhiles

Fall Away Blues - Red Tail Ring

Color Wheel - Jenai Huff

Fairweather - Roger Roger

Follow Me Moon - Mia Rose Lynne

Tears and Laughter - Robin Greenstein

Tree - Anna Elisabeth Laub

The Wayside - Kelley McRae


Gretchen Peters - Essential

Blue Rodeo - 1987 to 1993. Eight disc treasure chest.

Emmylou Harris - The Life & Songs of Emmylou Harris

Eddi Reader - The Blanco Y Negro Years. Five discs of real quality.


Van Morrison - It’s Too Late to Stop Now (Expanded edition with DVD. Essential)

Steve Earle - Guitar Town (30th Anniversary edition)

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris - The Complete Trio Collection

Various Artists - The Last Waltz (40th Anniversary edition)

Live Gigs

Patty Griffin - The Olympia. January

Krista Detor - Ballymore Eustace. February

Eddi Reader - The Pavillion. February

Blue Rodeo - The Grand Social. May

Doug Paisley - Whelans. June

Lera Lynn - Whelans. June

Carlene Carter - Whelans. June

Country 2 Country - 3 Arena. June

Freakwater - Whelans. October

Richmond Fontaine - Whelans. October



Songs of the Year:

God is a Working Man - Jason Isbell

Burning House - Cam

Friend of the Devil - Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley

Pushin’ Time - Miranda Lambert

No More Crying The Blues - Cactus Blossoms

All Blue - Luke Bell

Rum - Brothers Osborne

Ain’t Nobody - Dori Freeman

Story - Drake White (acoustic live)

Train of Time - Shakin’ Stevens (apocalyptic white gospel from an unlikely source)

Albums of the Year:

The Weight of These Wings - Miranda Lambert

Southern Family - Various Artists

I’m Coming Over - Chris Young

For Better, or Worse - John Prine & Various Duet Guests

El Camino - Frankie Ballard

Young In All The Wrong Ways - Sara Watkins

Swimming Pools, Movie Stars - Dwight Yoakam

New City Blues - Aubrie Sellers

Rattle & Roar - Earls of Leicester

North By South - Claire Lynch

Gig of the Year:

The Alvins - Whelans, Dublin

Disappointment of the year: Chronic over-production – Jay Joyce totally messed up Brandy Clark’s Big Day in a Small Town just as busbee 

over-decorated Maren Morris’ otherwise excellent Hero. Both these albums would have made my top 10 list otherwise. Producers 

should try to live by the maxim that it is helping the artist, not show off the producer’s ego and pet signature sound.


Ronnie Norton

Best Gigs in date order

Sturgill Simpson - Button Factory, January

Lindy Ortega - Grand Social January

Chris Stapleton/Ashley Monroe/Dwight Yoakum - C2C 3 Arena, March

Dierks Bentley - Olympia,  April 

Lera Lynn - Whelans, June

Phil Vassar - Whelans, June

Hot Club of Cowtown - Sugar Club, October 

Donal Lunny and Mick Hanly - Conservative Club, November

Plus, too many class acts to mention at each

Shannonside Festival - Six Mile Bridge Winter

Galway Arts Festival - Galway Summer

Omagh Bluegrass Festival - Omagh  

Best Albums 2016 (I can’t even begin to number rate them)

They are all special in their own way and I suppose I wrote them as they came to mind so that might be a sort of listing.

We Banjo 3 - Galway String Theory

Planxty - Between the Jigs and the Reels - A Retrospective

Special Consensus - Long I Ride

Earls of Leicester - Rattle and Roar

Dolly Parton/Emmylou Harris/Linda Ronstadt - Complete Trio Collection

Band of Ruhks - Band of Ruhks

Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley - The Country Blues

Claire Lynch - North by South

Blue Highway - Original Traditional

Time Jumpers - Little Sister 

John Prine - For Better or Worse

Del McCoy - Del and Woody

Cup O’Joe - Bluebirds

Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms - Innocent Road

Sarah Jarosz - Undercurrent

Tyler Grant - Earth And Wood

O’Connor Band - Coming Home

Balsam Range - Mountain Voodoo

Cathal Hayden - Hooked On Banjo

Fireball Mail - Bending The Rails  

20 here and I could easily hit another 20. Bluegrass, crossover country/trad and straight folk they made for an amazing year of great listens.  

All of the above and so many more that I haven’t listed are the staple music of my Ronnie Norton - Lonesome Highway radio shows on and check the websites for broadcast times.

Albums of the Year and More 2015

We here at Lonesome Highway would like to take the opportunity to thank all the Artists, Labels, PR companies, Promoters, Agents, Crews and Venue Staff for their support throughout the year in facilitating interviews, album and live reviews.

We also wanted to thank those who visit Lonesome Highway during the year. Happy Trails to you all.

Stephen Rapid’s 2015 

Reading about country music one soon learns that from almost the start there were complaints that country music was changing and moving away from its roots. One of the most profound of these was when Chet Atkins introduced the countrypolitan cross over sounds at the expense of fiddle and steel guitar in order to increase market share and to combat the incursion of rock 'n' roll to a younger audience. Looking back artists like Patsy Cline and Ray Price, amongst others, now seem a part of the tapestry. Indeed some of the artists who appeared in the '90s and were considered to be cross over sound much more "country" now in the light of some the recent output from Music Row and radio. However I would think that many of those artists were being swayed by the dictates of their labels  - who, in truth, have also been about the fiscal bottom line. The business of the music business has always predominated.

But if you look and listen there has always been good music out there. Often on the fringes, in the shadows and either self-released or on small indie labels. Some like New West and the distribution company Thirty Tigers in the US or Loose closer to home still have an aesthetic and purpose that centres around releasing good music. What exactly good music is will always be an open question. What we set out to cover in Lonesome Highway from its inception has become much broader as the definitions of what is Roots or Americana is open to very subjective interpretation. In the coming year we will try to get a little closer to our core remit which means that out and out blues, soul or indie will likely find less space on the site. 

As these lists below show we have broad and open minded attitudes to the music we love and hope to continue to receive and write about it.

So 10 albums of the year no particular order:

Sam Outlaw Angeleno

A smooth and attractive sound from the California native whose Ry Cooder produced album is one I have returned to often. His sound draws on classic country but feels very much of its time.

Lindi Ortega Faded Gloryville

The spiky Canadian has broadened her sound but her songs and distinctive voice never stray too far from the hardcore country she loves.

Sarah Gayle Meech Tennessee Love Song

Nashville based honky tanker has her album produced by Hank 3 steel guitar player Andy Gibson who get a memorable performance from Meech and the assembled musicians. This has very little in common with whats coming down the pike in Music Row.

Chris Stapelton The Traveller

At first I wasn’t totally convinced by the hype but soon came to regards its mix of country, soul and other elements, all delivered in a voice for the ages, as fairly essential.

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free

In some ways the last album hit home harder but this is a more than worthy follow up and expands Isbell’s reach as a genre defining roots artist.

Jason James Self-Titled

Debut of the year from a outstanding news artist who along with the likes of Mo Bandy is showing a clean pair of heels to the would be contenders when it comes to country music with integrity.

Ryan Bingham Fear and Saturday Night

The best album to date from the gravel voiced Americana man. This album brings together the various strands of his music so far in one satisfying whole.

Daniel Romano If I've Only One Time Askin'

A nod to countrypolitan and classic era country that adds his own unique and slightly surrealistic touch to the proceedings.

The Rizdales Blue Ain't The Word

They take on a legend by covering a selection of week and lesser know Ray Price songs but do it my being themselves and also being respectful to the songs. A very fine tribute album.

Ethan Johns Silver Liner

The latest album by producer, songwriter and singer Johns utilises a tight musical combo that includes steel guitarist BJ Cole and some guest including Gillian Welch to great effect. An album that should not be overlooked.

No ten albums can really sum up a year so here's a list of some of the other albums that on a different day would be up there:

Cale Tyson Introducing

Dwight Yoakam Second Hand Heart

Daniel Meade Keep Right Away

Phil Lee Some Gotta Love

Malpass Brothers Self-Titled

Ashley Monroe The Blade

Nora Jane Struthers Wake

James McMurtry Complicated Games

Eilen Jewell Sundowner Ghost Town

Joe Ely Panhandle Rambler

Rod Picott Fortune

Speedbuggy USA South of Bakersfield

Top Gigs:

JP Harris and the Tough Choices at Whelans

The Grahams at The Naul

Jim Lauderdale at Whelans

Best live album:

Greg Trooper Live At The Red Room


Ronnie Norton Top Albums 2015

Here’s my top ten in no particular order. 

Gibson Brothers Brotherhood

A tribute to brother harmonies from the best brother band around today in any genre. It’s a keeper.

Adkins & Loudermilk  Adkins & Loudermilk

Dave Adkins and Edgar Loudermilk have been ploughing separate Bluegrass furrows for a few years now. This is their first joint venture and their stunning vocals alone make this a must for this years list.

Maples Brothers  Malpass Brothers.

I met these two retro dressed, young Elvis lookalikes at the Omagh Bluegrass festival a couple of years ago. Was blown away by their southern charm and retro country sound. The fact that have opened for Merle for the past while is recommendation enough for most folks.

Dale Ann Bradley Pocket Full Of Keys

Another Omagh buddy of mine. And she just keeps on turning out albums that if she were not in Bluegrass would have her up there with any of the female rock superstars. She’s a Bluegrass superstar.

Various Artists Orthophonic Joy

This Carl Jackson produced revisit to the 1927 Bristol Sessions has a cast of Bluegrass and Country superstars and is one for the archives. Carl jackson continues to astound all with his production skills.

Darin & Brooke Aldridge Snapshots

This young husband and wife team have sneaked in over the last few years to become true Bluegrass superheroes. I’ve been a huge fan for ages and Brooke’s voice is one of the best I’ve ever heard in any genre.

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out It’s About Tyme 

I have 15 lllrd Tyme out albums in my collection but this one stands head and shoulders above the others. Vocal, instrumentation and song choice are all superb and it’s a constant companion on my iPod when I need a musical lift.

Donna Ulisse Hard Cry Moon

Donna and a cast of Bluegrass A-Listed musicians take a set of Donna’s own compositions and co-writes and deliver yet another amazing album that is almost on constant rotation on my leisure listening.

The Cox Family Gone Like The Cotton

In my eyes the Cox Family can do no wrong musically. We almost lost them to a very serious motor accident in 2000 but when Producer Alison Krauss found and reworked these songs from a lost Asylum album it felt like all my Christmases had come at once.

Chris Stapleton Traveller   

I’m lucky enough to have been a fan of this guy from his Steeldriver days but now I have to share him with the world. One listen is all you need to see why he has blown the Nashville Country thinking out of the water and is the shining light on Country Music’s road to recovery. Looking forward to seeing him live at C2C in march.

Sandy Harsch Top Albums 2015

Kacey Musgraces Pagent Material

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams Self Titled

Gretchen Peters Blackbirds

Don Henley Cass County

Ashley Monroe The Blade

David Rawlings Machine Nashville Overload

The Grahams Glory Bound

Amy Space The Killer In Me

Eilen Jewell Sundowner Ghost Town

Best compilation:

Alan Jackson Genuine


Paul McGees 2015

As the Music Industry continues to reinvent itself, post MP3 and illegal download controversies, we have seen another year of change.

Streaming has become the most favoured means of listening to music among the present generation and this development has seen the numbers of paid record sales continue to shrink. This has been the defining new direction regarding music consumption.

With Taylor Swift taking on Spotify on behalf of countless artists who rely increasingly on links to Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to maintain their tenuous careers, the changes experienced in Country Music have been far reaching. Album sales have fallen by 36% since 2008 and this hits the industry hard across all ages, income brackets and markets. 

With increasingly blurred lines between pop and country music the contemporary sound has moved further towards Bro-Country with songs about girls, beer and trucks being produced on the back of syncopated rhythms, more heavy beat grooves and an increased reliance on technology to develop a new sound. We even have rapped verses creeping into the song structures with new artists collaborating with Hip Hop artists to broaden the genre even wider. 

Where it will all end is anybody’s guess; perhaps a swing back to traditional country is too much to wish for as the new pop/urban influence mirrors the changing cultural landscape. Gone is the predominantly agrarian life of the rural communities who survived on the land and in their place has grown a brash, partying, sense of entitlement among the modern youth who like their music with attitude.

Time passes and we must embrace change. Even if the Country music of yesterday is no longer relevant to today there is still a place for roots based musicians to carry the torch without opting for loops and sampled sounds. 

The playing field has been mainly populated by newcomers such as Sam Hunt, Kip Moore, Thomas Rhett, Sam Outlaw, Mo Pitney, Luke Bryan and others, who have dominated new sales.

However, the old guard continue to put up a righteous fight as proven by new releases from Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Dave & Phil Alvin, Reba McEntire and Joe Ely to name a few.

One thing is certain; we all still listen to the radio and a great song still holds sway over other contenders to the crown of what makes Country music so special. 

Top 10 Country/Folk/Roots releases for the year are as follows;

  1. Tom Russell - Rose of Roscrae
  2. James McMurtry - Complicated Game
  3. Shelby Lynne - I Can't Imagine
  4. Alison Moorer - Down To Believing
  5. Ryan Bingham - Fear & Saturday Night
  6. Patty Griffin - Servant of Love
  7. Lone Bellow - Then Came the Morning
  8. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free
  9. Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds
  10. Dar Williams - Emerald

Top gigs during the year were;

  1. The Lone Bellow at Whelan’s (July)
  2. Greg Brown at Whelan’s (February)
  3. Patty Griffin at Whelan’s (September)
  4. Tom Russell at Whelan’s (September)
  5. Mary Gauthier at the Button Factory (May)
  6. Chuck Brodsky at the DC Club (July)

Best live recordings were;

Drive By Truckers - It's Great to be Alive 

Blue Rodeo - Live at Massey Hall

Best compilation / retrospective;

Chris Smither - Still on the Levee

Cowboy Junkies – Notes Falling Slow

Top 10 unknown artists  - 2015 releases;

  1. Brock Zeman - Pulling Your Sword Out of the Devil's Back 
  2. 3hattrio - Dark Desert Night 
  3. Sugar Brown - Poor Lazarus 
  4. Canaan Smith - Bronco 
  5. Jen Starsinic – The Flood & the Fire
  6. Kevin Sekhani - Day Ain't Done 
  7. Jami Lynn - Fall is a Good Time to Die 
  8. Hat Check Girl - At 2 in the Morning 
  9. Krista Detor – Barely
  10. Norma McDonald – Burn the Tapes


Declan Culliton’s 2015

The past year has been personally the most rewarding music wise for quite some time. The year kicked off in some style with a trip to Glasgow in January for a weekend of Celtic Connection shows. Allison Moorer, Lambchop and Calexico performing on consecutive nights proved to be the attraction together with the opportunity to reunite with many UK friends who attend the Kilkenny Roots festival every May weekend.

March arrived with an invitation from the good folk at Lonesome Highway to contribute to their wonderful magazine. The involvement with the magazine over the past nine months has introduced me to numerous outstanding bands and artists who operate slightly under the radar particularly in the album review section of Lonesome Highway

 The Kilkenny Roots Festival in May rewarded the annual pilgrimage to the Marble City with a mouth-watering line up which included the Country ballads of Cale Tyson, English folk beautifully delivered by The Rails, Mexican styled mariachi from Calexico and the upbeat and punky Trouble Pilgrims among many others. The festival is, for me, the premier Roots festival in Europe bringing quality bands and artists performing in intimate venues to appreciative audiences. It also affords the opportunity to renew acquaintances with the locals and the annual visitors who travel from the UK, Belfast and every corner of Ireland to enjoy the weekend every year. 

Returning to Nashville in September for the Americana Music Festival was another highlight of 2015 and featured in the Live Reviews section of Lonesome Highway in October.

I’ve listed below my personal favourite albums and gigs of 2015 below and already look forward to what promises to be another bumper year for gigs and albums in 2016.

The Albums

1.David Corley – Available Light

Somethings are worth waiting for. David Corley waited until the ripe age of 53 to release an album that probably would have been my album of the year for the past decade. Harrowing, desperate and liberating in equal measures.

2.Samantha Crain – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree

The title folk singer is too easily bandied around and often used in an incorrect context. No truer description could be used to describe the work of Samantha Crain who writes and sings about the day to day struggles of the ordinary and often unfortunate. She has never done it better than on this recording.

3.Ryley Walker – Primrose Green

An experimentation in the British folk genre of the late 60’s and early 70’s resulted in this gem from Ryley Walker. Primrose Green recalls the work of John Martyn, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley and Van Morrison 

4.Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

United opinion from country, Americana and rock critics as one of the best albums of the year, an achievement in itself from one of the most talented songwriters of his era. Can articulate in one sentence what can take others a chapter to achieve.

5. Patty Griffin – Servant of Love

Beautifully written dealing with heartache and relationship break up in particular. Striped back sound with some splendid atmospheric trumpet playing by Ephraim

6. Dave Rawlings Machine – Nashville Obsolete 

A worthy successor the Rawling’s excellent Friend of a Friend from 2009. The highlight being the eleven minute masterpiece The Trip.

7. John Blek & The Rats - Borders

Superb second album from Ireland’s premier Americana band. Had the track Funeral Home being written by Jason Isbell it probably would be Grammy nominated!

8. James Mc Murtry – Complicated Games

A career highlight from Mc Murtry. Twelve stories delivered with his deadpan vocal, particular favourites being Copper Canteen and Carlisle’s Haul

9. Ashley Munroe – The Blade

Equal in quality to her excellent debut album Like a Rose. Hugely under rated songwriter and unrivalled, for me, as the best female country vocalist at present.

10. Nora Jane Struthers – Wave

More rocky and less country than her previous album Carnival perhaps but a solid, mature piece of work from the former member of bluegrass band Bearfoot. 

11. Lilly Hiatt – Royal Blue

Being the offspring of musically talented parentage can often be a handicap. Not the case listening to this gem from Lilly Hiatt with an edgy and enough twang sound to satisfy both the Country and Americana lovers

12. Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds 

Business as usual from here with this outstanding album equalling the quality of 2012’s Hello Cruel World. Outstanding song writing, Blackbirds and When All You Got is a Hammer particular standouts. 

13. Chris Stapleton – The Traveller

Taking a break from writing killer songs other artists Stapleton raised the bar even higher with this marvellous debut solo album. Male vocalist and Album of the Year at the CMA’s.

14. Kurt Vile – Believe I’m Going Down

Acoustic and stripped back offering from the king of cool! No electric guitar this time around but plenty of great acoustic work and wonderful banjo playing

15. Whitey Morgan & The 78’s – Sonic Ranch

Outlaw Country is in safe hands as long as the Waylon loving Whitey Morgan continues to record and perform. Great, great sound.

16. Sam Outlaw

Excellent production by Ry Cooder on this debut album by an artist likely to make a commercial impact going forward. Who Do You Think You Are, Country Love Song and the title track bring to mind a young Dwight Yoakam or Buck Owens.

17. Shelby Lynn – I Can’t Imagine

The voice, the accent, the phrasing never seems to disappoint. The classic country closing track I Can’t Imagine is particularly wonderful.

18. Anna Mitchell – To the Bone

Impressive radio friendly debut album from the young Cork singer song writer suggesting she has a promising career ahead of her.

19. Chris Laterzo – West Coast Sound

Think late 70’s classic Neil Young for this gem from the Los Angeles based singer songwriter

20. Daniel Knox – Self Titled

Superb Americana second album from the Scott Walker sounding Daniel Kno

The Gigs

  1. 1. Lee Ann Womack / Sam Outlaw / Jim Lauderdale / Whitey  Morgan & The 78’s  at The 3rd & Lindsley Nashville
  2. 2. David Corley  at Cleeres Kilkenny
  3. 3. Frazey Ford at Whelans Dublin
  4. 4. Samantha Crain at The Pumphouse Kilkenny
  5. 5. J.P.Harris  & The Tough Choices at The Fond Object East Nashville
  6. 6. John Prine at Vicar Street
  7. 7. The Rails at Cleeres Kilkenny
  8. 8. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell at The National Concert Hall Dublin
  9. 9. Ron Sexsmith at Whelans Dublin
  10. 10. Rhiannon Giddens at Whelans Dublin



Albums Of The Year


Stephen Rapid 20 albums of note 2014

In no particular order here are just some of the albums that I have

enjoyed and returned to throughout the year. All fall to some degree

into my definition of country music - given that that, in itself, is a 

pretty broad church:

Jeremy Pinnell OH/KY

JP Harris and there Tough Choices - Home Is Where The Hurt Is

Laura Benitez and the Heartache - Heartless Woman

Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer - The Flower Of The Muscle Shoals

Doug Seegers - Going Down To The River

Nikki Lane - All Or Nothin

Corb Lund - Counterfeit Blues

Cina Samuelson - Roots & Memories

Karen Jonas - Oklahoma Lottery

Mark Sinnis  - It’s Been A Long Cold Hard Lonely Winter

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Small Two Heroes

Sturgill Simpsom - Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

Paul Burch - Fevers

Jim Lauderdale - I’m A Song

Ben Miller Band - Any Way, Shape or Form

Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives - Saturday Night/Sunday Morning

Daniel Meade - Keep Right Away

Don Williams - Reflections

Ryan Bingham - Fear and Saturday Night

Ronnie Fauss - Built To Break


Paul McGee Top Ten Americana Releases 2014

Dawn Landes - Bluebird

Rosanne Cash - The River & The Thread

Lucinda Williams - Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Robert Ellis - The Lights From The Central Chemical Plant

Birds Of Chicago - Live From Space

Holly Williams - The Highway

Mary Gauthier- Trouble & Love

Eliza Gilkyson - The Nocturne Diaries

Jason Tyler Burton - Headwaters

Drive By Truckers - Built To Break


Sandy Harsch Top Ten Albums 2014

Dave & Phil Alvin - Common Ground (The Songs of  Big Bill Bronzy)

Unexpected, delightful and incredibly musical.

Zac Brown Band- The Grohl Sessions (Volume One)

Great combination of band and producer, loved them live @ the 2013 CMA Awards show.

Doobie Brothers - Southbound

A lot more country than a great deal of Nashville now – and can guest Doobies Chris Young and Charlie Worsham sing!

Earls of Leicester - Earls of Leicester

A labour of love for an all-star cast which works perfectly. The revelation is Shawn Camp’s hard high-lonesome vocals.

Hurray for the Riff-Raff - Small Town Heroes

Good songs, well sung, with a surprising honky-tonk edge.

Ben Miller Band - Any Way, Shape or Form

I feel like Butch Cassidy – who are these guys?! Doesn’t matter, they are unique and can really play great rough roadhouse music.

Red Molly - The Red Album

Saw them years ago at Merlefest and loved them and the Molls have just got better. Singing, song choice and writing are superb and live they are dynamite.

Sturgill Simpsom - Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

The most country voice since Jamie Johnson, he writes amazing songs and goes where most people don’t – into real country. An extraordinary album.

Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives - Saturday Night/Sunday Morning

Sin and salvation; Marty and the boys are at home in both, with Brother Kenny Vaughan’s fabulous guitar work to the fore. 

Lee Ann Womack - The Way I’m Livin’

One of the great voices in Nashville, Womack is now happy on an independent label, making superb music. Gorgeous song choices, powerful vocals.


Ronnie Norton’s Ten Top Albums 2014

Here’s my list of the 10 albums that particularly caught my eye and ear during the last year. 

Because I listen to so many types of music I have not listed them in a "No1 and downwards” 

order. Let’s just say they are all joint No1’s: 

We Banjo 3 - Gather The Good 

Two sets of brothers with a genre defying album that takes Celtic Crossover to a whole new level. 

They are on a quest for world domination and 2015 could well be their year.

True North - Elsebound    

"It’s Bluegrass, Jim, but not as we know it”  Fell in long distance love with Kristen Grainger’s voice

and the band’s original songs and approach to my sort of music. Definitely my tastiest find of the year.

Four Wheel Drive - Travelling Kind    

Europe’s finest Bluegrass band, loosely based in The Netherlands. But the addition of the crystal clear 

and pure “Country“ voice of regular guest vocalist Jolanda Peters keeps this CD right in the front of my 

"must play regularly” box.

Driven - You’ll Be Lonely And I’ll Be Gone 

Released in late 2013 this sneaks in because Driven got right to me from my very first listen. This slightly 

west of Nashvile band represents for me all that is hopeful for the future of Bluegrass music

Irene Kelley - Pennsylvania Coal 

Carrying a real guilt feeling because I took so long to give this little gem a proper listen. Her first album in 

over 10 years with a stellar line up of Bluegrass’s finest musicians makes and Irene’s amazing voice and 

songwriting makes “Pennsylvania Coal” a real diamond in the rough.

The Earls Of Leicester - The Earls Of Leicester 

Too little space here to give Jerry and the boys the credit they deserve. A tribute to Flatt and Scruggs that 

has been brewing in Jerry’s mind for years. Destined to be a long term classic album by the cream of the 

Bluegrass world’s very best musicians.

Crowe, Lawson And Williams - Standing Tall And Tough    

J.D Crowe, Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams are the benchmark for as they call it “This great American 

music called Bluegrass”. Classic Country and Blistering Bluegrass from three of my superheroes. 

Claire Lynch - Holiday

At last a Christmas album to knock “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band” Christmas album 1997 off the top of my 

Christmas tree. Claire Lynch has set the bar for me for all Holiday albums in the future, but this is not just 

a holiday album it’s an acoustic music treat as only The Claire Lynch can deliver.

Larry Cordle And Lonesome Standard Time - All Star Duets 

The Mighty Cord and 12 of Country’s finest duet partners and 12 of Larry’s favourite compositions make 

this the "must have” album of the year. You know all the songs and now you get them supercharged and 

all in one place.

Rhonda Vincent - Only Me 

A 2 CD musical trip to a Bluegrass / Country leisure park as on Rhonda can do it. Sit back, kick off your 

boots and choose your flavour of the day, Rhonda Vincent, Bluegrass or Country singer. Your choice or 

both. Stunning album.

Book Review

Michael Ublandi Lost American Nights - lyrics & Poems  Moon Tide Press

This is an updated version of a book first published in 2006 and features lyrics and poems from across his career. It also features some black and white images of Ubladni to give the book a visual aspect. His website is so that nails his colours to the mast. How well do lyrics work without the music is a point that is often raised about lyric books. They serve two purposes, one to allow listeners to read lyrics and secondly for the words themselves. There is a difference between a poem and a lyric although that line can be blurred sometimes. Ublandi writes words that evoke images that are totally in keeping with their musical setting which range from the street rock 'n' roll of Avenue Of 10 Cent Hearts from his album of that title to Mardi Gras from Empty Bottles through to the country-styled words of My Liver's Bad, My Life's A Mess (And I Blame You Sweetheart) which features on his latest country focused album Last Of The Honky Tonks. Each section is titled Dream Sequence. Number 9 for instance is subtitled Pedal Steel Marquee and the words there fit that overall lyrical concept. Ublandi's fans will find this collection a handy source of his lyrics while others will find, as with all poets, the words that mean most to them. This is one man's life, loves and lamintations laid bare for all to see.