Album Reviews

  • Album Review: Eric Andersen, 'Woodstock Under the Stars'

    • June 26, 2020
    • Henry Carrigan

    Woodstock Under the Stars reveals the clarity and depth of Eric Andersen’s musical vision. It’s a chance to celebrate the quiet beauty of his songwriting and music, and it testifies to the power of his music to continue to transform us.

  • Album Review: John McCutcheon, 'Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine'

    • June 20, 2020
    • Henry Carrigan

    Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine offers us the simple pleasure of listening to John McCutcheon’s warm vocals, his lyrical insights, and his ringing and clear music tones. The songs on the collection keep us good company in our own isolation, prompting us to laugh, cry, and reflect on our lives and times.

  • Album Review: The Prison Music Project, 'Long Time Gone'

    • June 10, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    The United States has nearly two million people behind bars, some serving life sentences for a single, non-violent infraction — all but losing their lives because we, as a society, have judged them on the worst moment of their worst day. Yet, they are people, still, with families and friends, inner worlds and outer dreams. Singer/songwriter Zoe Boekbinder began exploring those worlds and dreams with the inmates while volunteering at New Folsom Prison, eventually bringing their vision for an album to Ani DiFranco who helped shape Long Time Gone.

  • Album Review: Nell & Jim Band, 'Western Sun'

    • May 29, 2020
    • Henry Carrigan

    Western Sun showcases Robinson and Nunally’s, as well as Chris Wadsworth’s, innovative songwriting and their canny ability to paint a stunningly memorable portrait through their storytelling. The Nell & Jim’s band romp across vast musical terrains also reveals their inventive stylings, shining a warm light on traditional music.

  • Album Review: Doc Watson & Gaither Carlton

    • May 29, 2020
    • Henry Carrigan

    Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton is a treasure, giving us a seat at those performances in 1962 that brought Watson’s and Carlton’s music to broader audiences and allowing us to enjoy the lively, beautiful moments of Watson’s and Carlton’s affectionate collaboration.

  • Album Review: Ondara, 'Folk N' Roll, Vol 1: Tales of Isolation'

    • May 28, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    With Folk N' Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation, Ondara is making less of a political statement and more of an historical document, though not one without its edges, as evidenced in “Pyramid Justice.” In song after song, he highlights the human experience of the global pandemic: He notes that there's no savior coming to rescue the working class that was so suddenly severed from their livelihoods when they were “Pulled Out of the Market” and he details the desperation and difficulty of wanting and maintaining emotional intimacy “From Six Feet Away.” On others, he bears witness to his own tortured mind in these particular times.

  • Album Review: Indigo Girls, 'Look Long'

    • May 20, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    Look Long, the new Indigo Girls album, does just what its title suggests: It unflinchingly surveys the past to step whole-heartedly into the present. And it does so on both the micro and macro levels of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers' lives as artists, activists, parents, and people simply doing the best they can in each moment, learning as they go.

  • Album Review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, 'Reunions'

    • May 18, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    Jason Isbell currently reigns in that realm, the one in which songs aren't just songs; they are sonic snapshots of our world. On his new Reunions album, as on previous releases, he sketches these lives in stunning, stark relief, backed by his stellar band, the 400 Unit. Together with producer Dave Cobb, the crew manages at least one notable difference with Reunions — the sound is somehow grittier and more refined, more urgent and more soulful, all at once.

  • Album Review: Gretchen Peters, 'The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury'

    • May 13, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    Gretchen Peters taking on an album of Mickey Newbury songs is an admirable feat. For one, she's a fantastic songwriter, in her own right, so these tunes have a pretty high bar to clear, which they do. For two, she's less of an interpreter, here, than she is an introducer, since it's not hard to imagine that far too many have never heard Newbury's work. Anyone that knows her work, knows that Peters knows her way around a sad sack of songs, so this collection isn't a huge departure, emotionally. Minor is most definitely her favorite key.

  • Album Review: Sarah Siskind, 'Modern Appalachia'

    • May 12, 2020
    • Kelly McCartney

    A North Carolina native, Sarah Siskind uses her free-spirited new album, Modern Appalachia, to explore her home state's genius loci and the effects it has had on her life. It's an admirable undertaking that Siskind approaches with all due respect and reflection, as she traces the blossoms and seeds of her life back to the literal ground from which she grew no matter how deep or dirty. As she sings in “Carolina,” “Who you are isn’t where you’re from, but where you’re from is always close, and when you go digging in that dirt, get ready for what you fear the most.”