Albums Of The Month – July 2021

Our Top Five Releases Jul 21

Tim O’Brien – Photo: LTTL

Top Five Releases

July 2021

Our Top Five Releases

By Rob Dickens

Joe Troop

Borrowed Time

Free Dirt Records

20 August 2021

Joe Troop is the principal of Che Appalache, a band that features a fusion of roots music and three mighty Latin American musicians. The band’s trajectory had been soaring, leading to a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album. Then COVID struck, shutting down their many scheduled live shows and trapping bandmates in their country.

Troop would not be stopped, however, throwing himself into many worthy causes around immigration, pastoral politics and activism – both through music and film. This work and the pandemic provided the stimulus for Borrowed Time, establishing a passionate lyrical context and the platform for an amazing set of collaborations.

The sessions in Durham North Carolina and Nashville were difficult logistically but have come out superbly. Borrowed Time was produced by Troop and Jason Richmond and included the former’s banjo mentor Béla Fleck and Fleck’s partner and banjoist Abigail Washburn (“Mercy for Migrants”). Wunderkind fiddler Nokosee Fields and the legendary Tim O’Brien (see review below) work on three ripping songs on the album.

Very special guests the Alamance Justice Choir appear on Troop’s song “The Rise of Dreama Caldwell” (see video below). The choir is made up of residents of Alamance County, where Dreama Caldwell ran for office in 2020, in an inspiring campaign that Troop has highlighted in the past. “I’m really proud of the album and everybody who’s on it,” Troop says. “That’s my community, those are my people”.


Via Hearth Music

Leftover Salmon

Brand New Good Old Days

Compass Records

7 May 2021

Back in 2014, I witnessed Leftover Salmon celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of its Nashville Sessions album at the Ryman Auditorium. Truth be told, I wasn’t aware of the band at that time, but it was the night before AmericanaFest, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. As it turned out, it was an inspired choice. A packed and rapturous house, Little Feat‘s maestro keyboardist Bill Payne played his first show as an official band member, plus guests including Sam Bush, John Cowan, Taj Mahal, Darrell Scott, the Del McCoury Band and Elizabeth Cook. I joyfully embraced the scale of the evening, the intense bluegrass/country/Cajun jamming and the diverse musical palette presented.

Brand New Good Old Days continues the lively ‘jamgrass’ catalogue of the band, kicking off with a frenetic bluegrass version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”, the catchy title track, John Hartford‘s “Category Stomp” and Conway Twitty‘s “Boogie Grass Band”. There’s serious subject matter too – “Red Fox Run” (clip below) is a sobering and pinpoint lesson on human kind’s impact on our planet.

As Tim Newby, author of Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival!, wrote “When listening to Leftover Salmon it is easy to draw a line that runs straight from Bill Monroe to John Hartford to the Grateful Dead to Hot Rize to Little Feat to New Grass Revival to Col. Bruce Hampton and end with Leftover Salmon.”


Via The Groove Merchants

Rachel Baiman


Signature Sounds Recordings

11 June 2021

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Baiman‘s 2017 debut Shame was one of my favourite releases of that year. Since then she has been exploring other roots musical ventures including the duo 10 String Symphony but with Cycles there’s a more contemporary and contemplative air. 

Baiman has employed a majority-female team to create some hard-hitting songs. Lining up the loss of a grandmother (the devastating “No Good Time For Dyin'” – see clip below) with a nephew’s birth focuses us on life’s cycle. Other themes include the internal dilemma between ambition and self-doubt, political trends and the inevitable relationship ebbs and flows.

Cycles is a major achievement – showing strength of purpose in adversity’s face and the importance of holding dear loved ones when surrounded by so much uncertainty. Masterfully engaging.


Sierra Ferrell

Long Time Coming

Rounder Records

20 August 2021

Sierra Ferrell began performing at the age of seven in her native West Virginia and, in her early 20’s, left home and joined up with a nomadic musical group playing everywhere from freight train boxcars to truck stops. The vivid life experiences are on show here for her debut album Long Time Coming with a rushing free spirit and musical multiplicity.

The album features a dozen songs written or co-written by Ferrell and is stylish and elegant. Co-produced by ten-time Grammy Award-winner Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, Sarah Jarosz) and musician Stu Hibberd, recorded at Nashville’s Southern Ground and Minutia studios, Long Time Coming combines tango rhythms, bluegrass picking, jazz phrasing and classic country.

Ferrell was joined in the studio by a remarkable array of guest musicians including Billy Strings, Sarah Jarosz, Dennis Crouch, Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, Chris Scruggs and Rory Hoffman.


Via Dave Laing Publicity

Tim O’Brien

He Walked On

Howdy Skies

25 June 2021

Tim O’Brien – well so much to say. This native of Wheeling, West Virginia (now a long-time resident of Nashville) has released around twenty solo albums since his debut in 1984.  Add two duet releases with the acclaimed Darrell Scott, a member (the first incarnation) of bluegrass ‘supergroup’ The Earls of Leicester and leader and co-founder of the contemporary bluegrass outfit Hot Rize (and its wacky alter ego Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers).

A producer for many artists, collaborator with performers as diverse as Joan Baez and Bill Frisell, he has also been a contributor to movie soundtracks including O Brother Where Art Thou?  Not to forget O’Brien’s two Grammys, IBMA awards and his induction into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Now we have another offering from this feted musical force.

“The project is about what you need to do to survive in America”

Tim O’Brien

Produced by O’Brien, He Walked On was recorded between October 2020 and January 2021 in Nashville with the core band of Mike Bub (bass), Pete Abbott (drums), and Tim on the rest – vocals, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, mandola and mandocello.

The first single and title track is telling (with its clip below filmed on the streets of Nashville – which made me get more than a little sentimental having not been there since September 2019), a tribute to friend and longtime supporter, Earl JT Gray, owner of the humbly iconic Station Inn who passed away recently.  

“When You Pray (Move Your Feet)” comes from an African proverb used as a Civil Rights anthem, while “Can You See Me, Sister?” is moving, an imagined encounter between two of Thomas Jefferson’s children with the enslaved woman Sally Hemings. “We’re In The Same Boat, Brother” is a timely reminder about equality and the Latin-tinged “El Comedor” co-written with O’Brien’s fiancée Jan Fabricius, reflects on time the couple spent last year at the Mexican border near Tucson, visiting with a grassroots humanitarian group that offered water and food to hopeful immigrants waiting for asylum.  

More highlights are the stark “Five Miles In and One Mile Down” which portrays events leading to the 2010 mining disaster in Virginia where 29 miners died and his cover of “That’s How Every Empire Falls” written by R.B. Morris and more famously recorded by John Prine, which is a loving tribute to the latter, O’Brien’s friend who died of COVID.

He Walked On is one of the finest releases of the year to date.


Via Kid Logic Media



Our Top Five Releases Jul 21

Our Top Five Releases Jul 21

Our Top Five Releases Jul 21

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Author: Rob Dickens

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