Albums of the Month – September 2020

Our top six picks

Top Six Releases

September 2020

By Rob Dickens

How’s everybody doin’ out there? Holding up?

Back last New Year’s, there was so much excitement. 2020! So much to look forward to. Then along came THE VIRUS, creating havoc in our lives, leaving us shaking our heads, thinking we’ve signed up as extras in a sci-fi nightmare narrative.

Yours truly is still in lockdown – about to commence the eighth week of said state.

It dawned on me this morning that, in a more normal universe, I would be in Fayetteville Arkansas now catching up with friends and the town’s annual festival (fayettevilleroots). From there I’d be travelling to the Blue Ridge, across Virginia and North Carolina checking out some music attractions and then back to the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion and AmericanaFest in Nashville. Five weeks of American roots music immersion therapy!

Ah well…consider that on hold for the foreseeable.

On a brighter note, good music continues to be released despite the dearth of opportunities for artists to showcase their new stuff live. For that, we are indebted. That is the saviour for us music lovers at this time.

Some more-than-fine albums that we at Listening Through The Lens received in the past month were from James Lee Baker (100 Summers), Blind Boys of Alabama (Almost Home), Luka Bloom (Bittersweet Crimson), Shannon LaBrie (Building), The Mavericks (En Espanõl), RB Morris (Going Back To The Sky), Jordan Tice (Motivational Speakeasy), Cidny Bullens (Walkin’ Through This World), Rob Williams (Weathering The Storm Vol. 1) and Michael C Duguay (The Winter of our Discoteqhue).

Here’s my top half-dozen.

Stay well!

Chris Smither

More From The Levee

October 3, 2020

Signature Sounds Recordings

Smither’s eighteenth album is a sequel to his fifty-year double-disc retrospective Still on the Levee (2014). There were so many recordings and of such quality during that session in New Orleans at the fabled Music Shed, that a second release was deemed necessary.

As was the case with its predecessor, the fresh takes on ten more songs on More From The Levee are a wonderful example of Smither’s consumate and supple guitar skills, both rhythmically and his finger picking style, and his well-worn vocals.

Special guests include the legendary (now deceased) Allen Toussaint and Loudon Wainwright III. Producer David Goodrich helps bring these gems to life.


via Conqueroo

via Signature Sounds

Colter Wall

Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs

August 28, 2020

La Honda Records/Thirty Tigers

The Canadian Cowboy returns with that booming voice and tales of life on the land, so authentic you almost have to shield yourself from the prairie dust. The conservation aesthetic is plain to hear as Wall takes us through a vivid journey of much-loved colourful characters (see clip of the solo version of one track below), old-time dances, horsemanship and working life on the range.

Wall laid down these ten new songs at Yellow Dog Studios, deep in the heart of Texas. Taking lessons from his previous recording experience with legendary producer Dave Cobb at the helm, Wall took over the control panel himself on Western Swing & Waltzes… to great less-is-more effect.



via Cooking Vinyl Australia

Kathleen Edwards

Total Freedom

August 14, 2020


An oh-so-welcome return. Gifted singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards has eschewed the music business since 2014, settling on managing a cafe/bar in her hometown in Ottawa to escape the pressures of a songstress’s tough career.

Total Freedom is a treasure, with Edwards’ velvet voice in fine fettle and beautifully-put-together songs, with plenty of compelling guitar riffs and tasteful use of a variety of instruments. The eleven songs reflect a fresh perspective on persistence, strength, past relationships and optimism.

This is her fifth studio album since her 2003 debut and her first since 2012’s Voyageur which was a sonic delight.  Co-produced by Edwards, longtime collaborator and guitarist Jim Bryson and Grammy Award-winning producer and musician Ian Fitchuk, the album marks a major return for Edwards and a bonus for us. 


via Dave Laing Publicity

Grant-Lee Phillips

Lightning, Show Us Your Stuff

September 4, 2020

Yep Roc Records

“Come on lightning, show us your stuff”.

Words from Grant-Lee Phillips’s young daughter triggered the title for this ten-track album, which adds to the impressive inventory of this veteran performer. His delivery is unique and Phillips’ observations are not to be cast off lightly. A rich palette lies within.

Lightning, Show Us Your Stuff was produced by Phillips, who is featured on vocals, guitars, piano, and organ, while joined in the studio by drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant, Alison Krauss), bassist Jennifer Condos (Ray LaMontagne, Bruce Springsteen, Sam Phillips), pedal steel player Eric Haywood (Son Volt, The Jayhawks), and horn player Danny T. Levin (Iggy Pop, Regina Spektor). 

Check our our G-LP live show when he was last in Australia.


via Red Eye Worldwide

Mo Pitney

Ain’t Lookin’ Back

August 14, 2020

Sony Music

A warning – Ain’t Lookin’ Back is sometimes Country with a capital C and usually not the sort of fare that you would find on this site. However, Mo Pitney‘s voice is just, heck, irresistible. Singing toe-to-toe with the greats Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard to name a few, Pitney’s deep nuanced voice is captivating (particularly when considering his relative youth).

Seven of the thirteen songs were co-written by Pitney and produced by long-time friend Jim “Moose” Brown and they are rock-solid classic country songs delivered with verve and polish. This album follows Pitney’s 2016 debut Behind This Guitar that drew significant Billboard success.

Remember the name. It won’t be the last time you hear it.


via Sony Music

Steep Canyon Rangers

Arm In Arm

October 16, 2020

Yep Roc Records

The Grammy award-winning bluegrass outfit is a pivotal figure in the vibrant North Carolina music scene over a twenty-year career, twelve albums and as North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inductees. Their stint backing actor/banjoist Steve Martin turned into a shrewd move and Steep Canyon Rangers have not looked back. Arm In Arm represents another milestone in a particularly fertile period (two releases in 2019).

Recorded over several days at the iconic Southern Ground Studios in Music Row Nashville, the album marks the first time the band has recorded outside their native State and carries with it a broader brush of material this time around. Featuring eleven original compositions, the perspective is clearly lyrically diverse. While not ignoring its traditional bluegrass history, Arm In Arm should appeal to a wider demographic and continue to maintain an impressive catalogue.


via Redeye Worldwide


Our top six picks

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Author: Rob Dickens

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