When Willie Nelson was busted for pot, yet again last week, he said I feel great! I feel six ounces lighter. It is that kind of spirit that is featured on this recording. The Grammy-nominated Country Music has the relaxed feel of Willie getting together with his best buds and playing classic country tunes with mostly acoustic instruments. It has the sound of a group of pickers crowding around one mic and swapping solos on fiddles and mandolins. Satisfied Mind, Pistol Packin Mama and Hank Williams House of Gold are standouts, but the collection includes 15 tunes and they are all good and fun.
Richard Thompson - Dream Attic (Shout Factory)
It is not easy for the uninitiated to cozy up to Richard Thompsons heavy English accented snarl, but his dazzling guitar playing makes it worth the effort. Dream Attic is a sparkling live recording of all-new material. It includes a wide variety of styles from Irish to rock-a-billy and has the flow, with peaks and valleys, that feel more like a concert than a bunch of songs. The best moments are still when Thompson lets loose on his Stratocaster. Forty years removed from his days with Fairport Convention, he sounds as good as ever.
Dierks Bentley - Up On the Ridge (Capitol Records)
It used to be when a country star would cross over he would go slick in an attempt to appeal to a pop music audience. Nowadays the thing to do is to go back to the roots and and make a bluegrass album. On Up On the Ridge Bentley recruits some of the best with the likes of Alison Krauss, Del McCoury and mandolinist extraordinaire Chris Thile and his band, the Punch Brothers. It is still something less than hardcore bluegrass. Bentley pushes it just far enough where it will still be played on modern country radio, but it is a fine album and has plenty of surprises including bluegrass versions of Bob Dylans Senor (Tales of Yankee Power), U2s Pride (In the Name of Love) and Bottle to the Bottom, a duet with Kris Kristofferson.
KT Tunstall - Tiger Suit (Relentless)
Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall is best known for her hits Black Horse and the Cherry Tree and Suddenly I See, a tune inspired by Patti Smith. Tunstall doesnt quite have Smiths intensity and sense of music as art (who does?), but on Tiger Suit Tunstall makes it clear she is a creative force to be reckoned with and is a lot more than a one or two hit wonder. Recorded in Germany at the same studio where U2s Achtung Baby and David Bowies Heroes were recorded, Tunstall ventures into the world of electronica and dance rhythms without letting it all overwhelm her own distinctive energy and personality.