September 22, 2020

Turnpike Troubadours – A Long Way from Your Heart – Bossier City

By Kristi Kates | Nov. 18, 2017

With their highway-ready, picturesque name and Oklahoma roots, this Americana outfit (featuring singer Evan Felker) draws on personal experiences, sketched as rough as charcoal on fiberboard, to craft genuine, rootsy tunes that make the most of their guitar-based format. Whether it’s the more restrained tempo of a track like “Sunday Morning Paper” or a heavier effort like “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues,” you’ll recognize the heartland in many of the characters and situations evoked here. ***

Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn – Echo in the Valley – Rounder
Their second album as a duo (and as a married couple), Fleck and Washburn dig deep into the heart of bluegrass and folk on this set, carefully infusing their signature sound(s) with additional elements that gracefully bound from Asian influences (Washburn’s contribution) to psychedelic rock and the Fleckian hybrid known as newgrass. Tradition also makes a strong showing via standout tracks like “My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains” and “Don’t Let it Bring You Down.” ***

Chris Young – Losing Sleep – RCA Nashville
While Young’s deep, practiced vocals make him a distinctive singer amidst the Nashville set, his inability to focus renders this album something of a mess. “Hangin’ On” is loaded with cliches that the soul-lite melody doesn’t help. The powerful vocal on “Blacked Out” is diminished by the arrangement, which doesn’t put the focus where it belongs: on vocal and piano. He can’t seem to figure out if he’s presenting himself as a country, R&B, or electronica singer, nor how to blend all of the above in a way that makes sense. * ½

Darius Rucker – When Was the Last Time - BMG
He’s long stepped past his beleaguered reputation as frontman of ’90s outfit Hootie and the Blowfish, and he’s established a respected country music career for himself. This album solidifies his place. Not only does he collaborate with some heavyweight fellow talents (Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean), but he also takes his own sound and polishes it with influences ranging from soul to (unexpectedly) the ‘80s. “She” leans toward the conventional, while “Twenty Something” even throws in some jazz. ** ½





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