Albums Of The Month – December 2023

Our Top Six Albums December 23

US 23 Country Music Highway Museum, Kentucky – Photo: LTTL

Top Six Album Releases

December 2023

Our Top Six Albums December 23

By Rob Dickens

Balsam Range

Kinetic Tone

Mountain Home Music Company

1 December 2023

After some fifteen years of music-making with its original lineup, North Carolina’s Balsam Range has had to adapt to the departure of Darren Nicholson. With the upcoming strident and dynamic Kinetic Tone, their tenth collection for Mountain Home Music Company, the group shows a definitive bold push to the future embracing mandolin virtuoso Alan Bibey to the award-winning quintet.

With three of the new songs having already garnered much positive attention on the bluegrass scene, Kinetic Tone delivers to its many fans on many fronts, with this being an ample demonstration that the band continues its renowned mix of smooth and hard grooves and sweet harmonies, but also adding a new edge to their lyrics.

Change IS good.

OFFICIAL SITE

Via Mountain Home Music Company

Chris Stapleton

Higher

Mercury Nashville

10 November 2023

It remains an amazing career story. A long-time lead man of the edgy and progressive bluegrass band The SteelDrivers, he became a professional songwriter, penning country hits for many feted artists (Adele, Darius Rucker, George Strait, Luke Bryan). His first solo album, 2015’s Traveler (our Album Of The Year), propelled him to an almost overnight sensation leading to three more acclaimed albums, constant stadium tours and multiple CMA, Grammy and Americana Music Association awards.

Higher is Chris Stapleton‘s album number five and there are three or four powerful songs with his trademark country and swamp blues gruff swagger. But there’s a shift evident to a more soulful overlay with many tender ballads and love insights – “What Am I’m Gonna Do” and “The Day I Die” (clip below) – and arrangements that are peeled back to accentuate Stapleton’s more adventurous vocals.

Dave Cobb again is at the production helm and Higher gives credence to an unprecedented run of excellence only matched by Jason Isbell over the same period.

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The Grahams

The Grahams

3 Sirens Music Group

8 September 2023

Nashville-based Alyssa and Doug Graham have been together for over three decades and their latest enticing release features ten tracks from across their career. It is far from a retrospective, though, and they deftly apply a fresh take on songs chosen by polling friends and peers, along with some soul-searching from the pair.

Originally these songs were part of The Grahams‘s three concept albums and the new treatment is sublimely bitter-sweet and tender, with Alyssa’s intimate voice and the couple’s harmonies hard to resist.

These new sessions were produced by Dan Molad and feature musicians including Lucius, Ray Jacildo and Jack Lawrence. In addition to their own artist career, The Grahams head up 3Sirens Music Group – a label and studio in East Nashville. Over the last few years, they have collaborated on projects with Margo Price, Elizabeth Cooke, Lilly Hiatt.

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Jamie Wyatt

Feel Good

New West Records

3 November 2023

When last we saw Jaime Wyatt on 2020’s Neon Cross, the images accompanying were white suit, wide hat, mouth with cigarette and feminist swagger. The cover and title of this new release seems to be sending a clear message that she is in a more positive place now.

Her life story is full of difficult twists. She signed her first record label deal as a teenager, achieving early success before losing that deal. Before the age of twenty-one, she battled drug addiction and served close to a year in jail for robbing her heroin dealer (chronicling those experiences on her 2017 EP, Felony Blues).

Prior to the release of the EP, Wyatt relapsed and found herself again dependent on drugs and alcohol. Eleven days before its release date, Wyatt’s father passed away and just a few months after, a close friend overdosed.

Feel Good is an uplifting mix of soulful and bluesy r ‘n’ b and proof positive that the world needs every good news story it can get.

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Low Water Bridge Band

Back To The Valley

Independent

17 November 2023

How is it that there are so many bands with low profiles that are so good?

Back to the Valleythe new album from Appalachian folk-rockers Low Water Bridge Band is full of well-styled lyrics, cracking multi-pronged vocals and deeply-forged instrumentation. Since their last LP Midnight in Virginiathe band’s prominence has developed from smaller clubs into prestigious festival slots.

The band members are Logan Moore (guitar, vocals), Alex Kerns (bass, vocals), Riley Kerns (drums, background vocals), James Montgomery (lead guitar), Justin Carver (pedal steel, banjo) and Rudy Bzdyk (fiddle, trumpet, keyboards). The band thrives on experimenting with extending their sound into interesting territories and the listener is consequently rewarded.

The record was produced by band members Riley Kerns and Moore and recorded and mixed by Kerns at BerryTone Sound Recorders in Berryville, Virginia.

OFFICIAL SITE

Vincent Neil Emerson

The Golden Crystal Kingdom

La Honda Records

10 November 2023

I was a big fan of his previous eponymous album and the follow-up does not disappoint.

Vincent Neil Emerson has the ability to use words like a knife in a way that only the best storytellers can, with his tumultuous life story providing plenty of inspiration, one way or another. This young Choctaw-Apache man from East Texas reminds me of John Prine and Townes Van Zandt in the sheer, razor-sharp clarity of his vignettes.

The Golden Crystal Kingdom was produced by Shooter Jennings and his third album provides another fine exhibit of his ability to tap into legends and his own proud heritage with an expanded canvas as he works assiduously on his craft to win bigger audiences.

OFFICIAL SITE

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LAST MONTH’S BEST ALBUMS

More Music Adventures Await!

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Our Top Six Albums December 23

Our Top Six Albums December 23

Our Top Six Albums December 23

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Author: Rob Dickens

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