Damon Bramblett, Damon Bramblett (Lone Star Records/Ryko) Respected Texas singer/songwriter returns with Lloyd Maines-produced disc, on which he's backed by guitarist Maines, drummer Conrad Choucroun (Damnations TX), bassist Kevin Smith (8-1/2 Souvenirs) and Amy Boone, who trades vocals with Bramblett on "Heaven Bound" (previously recorded by Kelly Willis). Also included are "Nobody Wants To Go to the Moon Anymore" (covered by Sara Hickman) and "Waiting for the Mail" (covered by Charlie Robison).
Norton Buffalo, King of the Highway (Blind Pig) First solo album in 20-some years from the popular harmonica blower best known for his extensive tenure with Steve Miller and side gigs with the likes of Commander Cody, Bonnie Raitt, Roy Rogers, Johnny Cash and the Doobie Brothers. Eleven originals and one cover (Sonny Thompson's "I'm Tore Down").
Albert Collins, Love Can Be Found Anywhere/Trash Talkin' (Collectables Records) Twenty-four track disc includes "Pushin'," "Stump Poker," "Harris County Line Up," "Lip Service," "Baby What You Want Me to Do/Rock Me Baby (Medley)."
Dan Crary and Lonnie Hoppers, Crary and Hoppers and Their American Band (Pinecastle) Expert string-benders Crary (guitar) and former Blue Grass Boy Hoppers (banjo) wheel through a 12-song set of heartfelt, true-blue Americana, with a typically stunning assist from Bluegrass Etc. mandolin wizard John Moore. Songs include Lester Flatt's "Head Over Heels in Love With You," Merle Travis' "Nine Pound Hammer," Don Reno and Red Smiley's instrumental "Banjo Signal," Merle Haggard's "Good Old American Guest" and the traditional "John Henry."
Chris Duarte, Love Is Greater Than Me (Uni/Zoe) Produced by Doyle Bramhall Sr., this is esteemed blues-rock guitarist Duarte's first album in three years. Songs include "All Night," "Soul Thing," "Brand New Day" and the somewhat Middle Eastern-sounding "Metaphor," in acoustic and electric versions.
Guy Forsyth, Steak (Antone's) Thirteen tracks of new-millennium blues. Forsyth and his band are joined by guests such as acoustic blues guitarist Steve James and Asylum Street Spankers Wammo and Stan Smith.
Arlo Guthrie, Outlasting the Blues/Power of Love (Koch) Two-for-one reissue of 1979's spiritually minded Outlasting the Blues and 1981's less well-received Power of Love. The 21-track disc includes Pete Seeger's "Sailing Down This Golden River," Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina," Richard Thompson's "When I Get to the Border," Dave Mallett's "Garden Song," and Guthrie's own "Telephone" and "Living Like a Legend."
John Hiatt, Crossing Muddy Waters (Vanguard) Possibly Hiatt's best album since 1987's career-making Bring the Family, this 11-track, largely acoustic disc marks a return to roots, of sorts, in his first venture with Vanguard. He's backed by longtime sidemen Davey Faragher and David Immergluck.
John Lee Hooker, Concert at Newport (Collectables Records) More mojo from Vee-Jay 11 tracks worth, including "Talk That Talk Baby," "Boom Boom," "Stop Baby Don't Hold Me That Way" and "Let's Make It."Lightnin' Hopkins with Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, Coffee House Blues (Collectables Records) Another 11-track goodie from the Vee-Jay vaults; includes "Blues for Gamblers," "Blues for the Lowlands," an uplifting "Down by the Riverside" and the powerful "Blowin' the Fuses."
Jim Hurst and Missy Raines, Two (Pinecastle) Two in-demand side players team up for 14 solid, sometimes jazzy bluegrass tunes, including Ed Snodderly's "Small Southern Town," the Claire Lynch/Craig Fuller co-write "Once the Teardrops Start To Fall," Jamie O'Hara's "You Ain't Down Home" and the instrumentals "Stinky Pye" and "Two Funky for Rhythm."
King Ernest, Blues Got Soul (Fat Possum) The title says it all: King Ernest had it, and he was a beloved figure on L.A.'s blues scene because of it until his untimely death in a car crash earlier this year. The standout track is Tom Waits' "House Where Nobody Lives," which King transformed into movingly relevant social commentary.
Lord Invader, Lord Invader: Calypso in New York (Smithsonian/Folkways) The calypso legend who co-wrote "Rum and Coca Cola" is honored with a 26-track collection that includes 13 previously unreleased tracks, including two "You're Wasting Your Time #2" and "I'm Going Back to Africa" from his very last session. All were recorded by Moses Asch between 1946 and 1961.
Susan McKeown, Lowlands (Green Linnet) Traditional songs of Ireland and Scotland in English and Gaelic, plus the late Liam Weldon's "Dark Horse on the Wind." The unpredictable, theatrical McKeown is joined by Malian kora player Mamadou Diabate, Wang Guowei (playing erhu, or Chinese fiddle) and Johnny Cunningham.
Mohead, Rural Electric (Okra-Tone) Ten rootsy tunes with a laid-back '70s feel not quite folk or blues or Southern rock, but close enough to get a vibe going. Lots of guitars (acoustic, electric and slide), Hammond organ, harmonica, mandolin, accordion, a tuba, one trash-can snare and really good songs.
Maria Muldaur, Music for Lovers (Telarc) Eleven-track compilation of the self-described "bluesiana" singer's blues-by-way-of-N'Awlins romance-minded recordings for Telarc. Songs include "Fanning the Flames" from her 1996 album of the same name, John Hiatt's "It Feels Like Rain," Bruce Cockburn's "Southland of the Heart" and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," with the late Charles "Merry Christmas Baby" Brown tickling the ivories.
Paul Pena, New Train (Hybrid) Release of 27-year-old album on which the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is joined by Jerry Garcia, Merle Saunders and the Persuasions. Songs include Pena's "Jet Airliner," which Steve Miller took to the top of the charts in the 1970s.
The Rarely Herd, Part of Growing Up (Pinecastle) Traditional bluegrass band with progressive sensibilities, expert chops and healthy sense of humor plays 12 tunes, including "Gone But Not Forgotten," "Perfect Fool," "A Sinner's Plea" and two instrumentals, "Siloam Springs" and the tongue-in-cheek "Nedscape Navigator."
Amy Rigby, Sugar Tree (Koch) By turns little-girl sincere and try-me tough, the critics' darling flexes her trademark funny bone with "Cynically Yours" and "Balls," punches up "Rode Hard" with some punk twang, and bares her heart with "Let Me in a Little Bit" and the bracing "Magicians." Guests include Will Kimbrough, Joy Lynn White, Bill Lloyd, Wilco's Ken Coomer.
Don Rigsby, Empty Old Mailbox (Sugar Hill) One of the year's most satisfying bluegrass albums, distinguished by Rigsby's powerful tenor and guests such as J.D. Crowe, Jerry Douglas, Sonya Isaacs, Tim Stafford, Carl Jackson and Stu Duncan. Songs include the title tune by Dixie and Tom T. Hall (who also wrote the liner notes), John Hartford's "Here I Am in Love Again" and Larry Sparks' "These Ole Blues."
Charlie Robison, Jack Ingram, Bruce Robison, Unleashed Live (Lucky Dog/Sony) Recorded last spring at Texas' fabled Gruene Hall, three Lone Star lights of the Americana scene honky-tonker Ingram and the lucky-in-love brothers Robison each render four tunes, including "Angry All the Time" (a duet between Bruce Robison and wife Kelly Willis), "Rayne, Louisiana" (both Robison brothers), "Sunset Boulevard" (Charlie Robison) and "Travis County" (Ingram).
Mark Selby, More Storms Coming (Vanguard) The guy who wrote "Blue on Black" for Kenny Wayne Shepherd and co-wrote "There's Your Trouble" for Dixie Chicks gets his own name over the title of this 11-track disc of contemporary blues-rock. Guests include keyboardist Reese Wynans, Kim Carnes and knockout backup singers Bekka Bramlett and Crystal Taliefero.
Rick Shea, Sawbones (Wagon Wheel/AIM) Third solo album from Dave Alvin's trusty right-hand man, a highly regarded songwriter and performer who's accompanied by Alvin, Katy Moffatt, fiddler Brantley Kearns and former Lone Justice drummer Don Heffington, among others. Disc includes 11 originals and a cover of "Saginaw Michigan" by Don Wayne and Bill Anderson.
Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin, Songs of the Carter Family (Appleseed) One of the most esteemed duos on the traditional-music circuit, the multi-instrumentalists turn to the extensive Carter Family canon of folk and country standards for their latest venture.
Jimmy Thackery, Sinner Street (Blind Pig) Eleven tracks of high-energy, muscular blues-rock from the seasoned club veteran and his tight four-piece band. Songs include "Grab the Rafters," "Million Dollar Bill" and John Cook's heavy "Detroit Iron."
Various artists, American Blues, Vol. 1(Fuel 2000) Fourteen-track compilation includes little-heard and previously unreleased recordings from seminal blues artists. Songs include Frank Frost's "My Back Scratcher," Ike Turner's "Matchbox," T-Bone Walker's "No Do Right," Lowell Fulson's "Stoned to the Bone," B.B. King's "Sweet Sixteen," Buddy Guy's "The Way You've Been Treating Me."
Various artists, The 40th Anniversary Collection (Arhoolie) Five-CD, 106-song box set chronicles label founder Chris Strachwitz's journey of musical discovery through blues, Cajun, zydeco, country, jazz, roots and world music over the past 40 years. A virtual treasure chest of music, including recordings by Mance Lipscomb, Flaco Jimenez, Beausoleil, Lightnin' Hopkins, Clifton Chenier, the Campbell Brothers (of Sacred Steel fame) and Big Mama Thornton with Buddy Guy.
Various artists, Calypso Awakening: From the Emory Cook Collection (Smithsonian/Folkways) Hour-long, 21-track compilation of song duels (between the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Melody, among others) and steel drum parades recorded at clubs, tents and in the streets of Trinidad by American recording engineer Emory Cook between 1956 and 1962. A 32-page booklet with detailed notes, lyrics and a discography is included.
Various artists, Dealin' With the Devil Songs of Robert Johnson (Cannonball) Twelve tunes by the father of the blues get contemporary reworkings from the likes of Debbie Davies ("When You Got a Good Friend"), Guy Davis ("Stones in My Passway"), Sue Foley ("From Four Until Late"), Paul Geremia ("32-20 Blues"), Corey Harris ("Walkin' Blues"), Colin Linden ("Preachin' Blues"), Pinetop Perkins ("Sweet Home Chicago") and Josh White Jr. ("Come on in My Kitchen").
For a full report on this week's blues/folk album releases, click here.