Edie Carey, Call Me Home (Accidental Poet) — Contemporary folk singer/songwriter addresses relationship politics from various perspectives, as well as childhood (the urgent “Disco Ball Heart”) and keeping up appearances (“Fine”). The sobering “Black Wool Dress” is told from the perspective of a mother burying her child.
Dave Crossland, Fields of Promise (Appleseed) — Six-song folk EP featuring instrumental backing from bassist Victor Krauss, guitarist Richard Bennett (Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle) and drummer Larry Atamanuik (Harris’ Nash Ramblers band). Lyrics passionately tackle greed, slavery and the rambling life, and Crossland follows the traditional “Shenandoah” with the heartfelt lament “Matthew Shepard,” about the brutally killed gay college student.
Scott Dunbar, From Lake Mary (Fat Possum) — This backwoods-blues album by the illiterate son of an ex-slave was originally released in 1972. Dunbar, who died almost six years ago, worked as a fishing guide on Lake Mary, and played the blues in the surrounding area of rural Wilkinson County, Miss.; his self-taught playing and foot-stomp method of time-keeping reflect the insular world for which he made music.
Kyle Littlefeather, Earthsong: Native American Chants and Dances (Varese/Fuel 2000) — Ten-track disc is the second in the award-winning Native American composer’s Elements trilogy, featuring instrumentation that’s both traditional (flutes, drums) and modern (cello, keyboards). Not specific to any one tribe, all but one of the melodies are traditional.
Jess Klein, Draw Them Near (Slow River/Rykodisc) — Hard-touring, critically acclaimed Boston singer/songwriter is backed by the likes of Will Kimbrough and Wilco drummer Ken Coomer on her latest release.
Sleepy LaBeef, Tomorrow Never Comes (M.C.) — The towering LaBeef has always purveyed a bluesy, rocking brand of honky-tonk. On this 14-track disc, he’s backed by a band that sounds as if it would feel right at home Saturday night in a roadhouse. Maria Muldaur lends her earthy growl to the traditional “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Raining in My Heart.”
Barbara Lynn, Hot Night Tonight (Antone’s) — A 1999 recipient of a Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, the left-handed Texas guitarist and singer scaled the R&B and pop charts in 1962 with her song “You’ll Lose a Good Thing,” subsequently covered by Freddy Fender. The new disc features guest appearances by Ivan Neville and three former Rolling Stones touring members: vocalist Bernard Fowler, bassist Daryl Jones and guitarist Pierre de Beauport.
Michael McGoldrick, Fused (Compass) — Award-winning Celtic flutist, lauded for his work with Capercaillie and Afro-Celt Sound System, weaves traditional Irish melodies with textured rhythms and ambient, contemporary music. Former Solas singer Karan Casey and Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson and Manus Lunny guest.
Robbie McIntosh, Unsung (Compass) — Former Pretenders guitarist left behind cushy stadium gigs (with the likes of Paul McCartney, Cher, Phil Collins and Joe Cocker) to record this 19-track acoustic album of mostly solo guitar compositions, which range from traditional folk to Elvis Presley covers.
Maria McKee, Ultimate Collection (Uni/Hip-O) — With an expansive, often wondrous worldview and a voice that’s part raging storm, part caressing whisper, former Lone Justice frontwoman McKee has established herself as a defiant original whether shouting out cowpunk anthems with Lone Justice or singing her own soulful ballads.
Pinetop Perkins, Live at Antone’s, Vol. 1 (Antone’s) — Delta-born pianist at a 1995 club gig, accompanied by fellow Muddy Waters band veterans Calvin Jones (bass) and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (drums) and Fabulous Thunderbird harpist Kim Wilson.
Rebecca Riots, Gardener (Appleseed) — Sixteen tracks of earnest acoustic folk, simple instrumentation and angelic harmonies from Berkeley, Calif., trio.
Peggy Seeger, Love Will … Linger On (Appleseed) — Thirteen-track collection of “romantic love songs” in folk settings from the half-sister of Pete Seeger and the widow of esteemed English songwriter Ewan MacColl — who wrote the first track on this album, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”
Roscoe Shelton and Earl Gaines, Let’s Work Together (Cannonball) — A return to the blues-based R&B of the duo’s 1950s/’60s heyday. They take turns singing solo on this 13-track disc, and sing together on the title track and four other cuts.
Paul Thorn, Ain’t Love Strange (Ark 21) — The colorful singer/songwriter’s soulful brew produces colorful originals such as “Blues Stew,” “Fabio & Liberace,” “Ain’t Gonna Beg,” “Burn Down the Trailer Park.” Guests include drummer/singer Louise Goffin, guitarist Pat McDonald and singer/songwriter Mai Sharp on backup vocals.
Various artists, Cliff’s Picks (Antone’s) — Named after the controversial club and label owner, Clifford Antone, Cliff’s Picks features cream-of-the-crop Texas blues artists, including Doyle Bramhall, Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson, Sue Foley, James Cotton, Doug Sahm, Memphis Slim and the gutsy “Dreams Come True” trio of Angela Strehli, Marcia Ball and Lou Ann Barton.
Various artists, Gone Phishin’ (CMH) — Guitarist/mandolinist Brent Truitt, bassist Byron House and Blue Highway‘s Dobro wizard Rob Ickes are among the bluegrass and country pickers giving Phish the ‘grass treatment.
Various artists, Orange Blossom Special (CMH) — A fired-up 20-track pickin’ fest, featuring the Osborne Brothers (the title track), Johnny Gimble, Joe Maphis and Fiddlin’ Red Herron, Benny Martin with Josh Graves, Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass, Aubrey Haynie and Glen Duncan.
Various artists, Pickin’ on Zeppelin (CMH) — Way sweeter than the Zep ever intended. Twelve tracks in intriguing and often surprisingly effective bluegrass settings, including “The Song Remains the Same,” a harmonica-laced “Kashmir,” “All My Love” and — of course — “Stairway to Heaven.”
Various artists, Rollin’ Into Memphis: Songs of John Hiatt (Telarc) — James Cotton, Chris Smither, Irma Thomas, Odetta, Tab Benoit, Kenny Neal, singer/songwriters Patty Larkin and Cliff Eberhardt and zydeco veterans C.J. Chenier and Terence Simien are among the artists paying tribute to singer/songwriter John Hiatt on this 12-track disc.
Carl Verheyen, Atlas Overload (Provogue Records) — Supertramp guitarist is also an in-demand session player for scores of pop, jazz and country acts, but in his own music he prefers to fuse his sophisticated fretwork with driving blues and rock. Recorded on 24-track analog tape with tube mics and no digital editing.
Dar Williams, The Green World (Razor & Tie) — The singer/songwriter’s long-awaited follow-up to 1997′s End of the Summer includes “We Learned the Sea,” “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono,” “Playing to the Firmament,” “Spring Street” and “What Do You Love More Than Love?”
Johnny Winter, Johnny Winter and … (DCC Compact Classics) — Reissue of the wild Texas blues-rock guitarist’s 1970 release. Eleven tracks, including “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” (co-produced by bandmate Rick Derringer), “Prodigal Son,” “Ain’t That a Kindness,” “Funky Music” and “Let the Music Play.”
(Click here for a full report on this week’s releases.)