Milly Raccoon – You’re In Country Country

Fiddle player and singer Milly Raccoon roams the continent, bringing her quirky, edgy music and art to unsuspectingcitizens. Her original songs and musical stylings seem to have traveled magically out of the past, emulating classic country, traditional jazz, and old-world Celtic music. 

The Hangin’ Cowboys – West

The Hangin’ Cowboys are a high-energy country band. They can make the audience laugh, cry, shout and sing. The Hangin’ Cowboys sound is firmly rooted in the traditional sound of Americana. 


Band members include:
SHAUN SPARKS: Lead vocals acoustic guitar
JEFF “FANNY” SCHNITTKER: Electric guitar, vocals
RUSS EIKERMAN: Bass, boots
“SMALL DAVE” MERRITT: Keys & Oratory
“Mello” Matt Ihrig: Drums

Our Girl – Stranger Today

While the band isn’t immune to occasional aimlessness on tracks like “Sub Rosa” and “Heat,” their debut album should be praised for what it is—a strong record with memorable melodies, lovely vocals, impactful lyrics and some of the best guitar playing you’ll hear this year.

Ashley Jordan – He’s Crazy

Described as “charismatic,” “honest” and “a vocal powerhouse,” 25 year old singer songwriter Ashley Jordan has performed her music across the U.S. and has had the honor of supporting artists such as Trace Adkins, Sam Hunt, Chase Rice, Rusted Root, Jason Mraz, Phillip Phillips, Christina Perri, O.A.R., Magic!, Alex Preston, Crystal Bowersox, Howie Day and more!  With several high-profile performances as well as a host of major regional awards, Ashley shows no signs of slowing down. Ashley has performed for audiences as large as 40,000, and in 2015 her song “Angels” received a first-round Grammy nomination. Ashley was selected for a second time as a top ten finalist in Nash Next 2017, and won “Country Artist of the Year” in the coveted Boston Music Awards in Dec. of 2017. 

 

In 2016, Ashley finished recording a fourth album (“He’s Crazy”) of all original music and immediately caught the attention of Boston’s premiere radio station WBMX (MIX 104.1 FM).  Calling her new album “a masterpiece,” Matthew Reid (Music Director and on-air personality at WBMX) stated: “My favorite album of 2015? Adele’s 25.  My favorite album of 2016, so far? Boston singer/songwriter and Open MixFest 2014 Winner, Ashley Jordan’s He’s Crazy.”  Also in late 2016 (and again in late 2017), Ashley competed in “Nash Next” competitions hosted by Nash Icon radio and won local and regional contests to eventually be named a 2-time top ten finalist from across the nation and earning a spot to perform in Nashville.  In 2016 she performed for Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records, Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn, Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts  and Danielle Bradbery from the Voice; in 2017 she performed for Scott Borchetta, Kix Brooks, Country Artist Brantley Gilbert and Music Legend, Desmond Child. Desmond Child said of Ashley’s 2017 performance, “That’s like the music I grew up with…like I used to go see Janis Joplin at these big festivals and you have that feeling about you…”

The Hot Seats – Stupid Mountain Too Big

PF HotSeat here, ready to provide you with useful (?) information about the songs and tunes and general feeling of this new album. The album is called Stupid Mountain Too Big. Yup, that’s what it’s called. Ben came up with the name and idea, and I wrote the song to accompany it. I guess it started as an attempt to write a bunch of songs with faux nostalgia for the things that occupy the mindspace of oh so many country songs – home, trains, love, mountains, old time living, etc. It took a turn somewhere, and we basically have two albums in one – one that hits on this aforementioned conceit, and one that tells a general story of life, from procreation all the way to the inevitable realization of the inconsequential nature of existence. You know: life. The second one contains some actual nostalgia and sentiment, something we have strayed form a bit as a band, but hey, we’re 17 years old now, on the edge of adulthood, and we have become reflective. Or shiny, we might just be shiny.

We had a lot to say, and hadn’t made an album in nearly 3 years, so it’s a long album, more reminiscent of those that we put out in 2002-3. You may notice some different instrumentation here, you may notice some stripped-down tracks as well. Being all spread out and busy, we have to be spry and improvisational. We tried different arrangements and brought new people into the studio to make up for those that couldn’t make the dates. We said to ourselves, “the time for banjos and accordion has come.” And the skies parted, and black rain fell at our feet. Nevertheless, we persisted.

What makes a band? Is it 5 pairs of legs with accompanying feet? Is it desire? The will to spend a lifetime together, crammed into a moving box or flying tube? Is it the name? It’s probably the name. We’ve had two names, one was questionable, the other one is too. What isn’t questionable is that we are a band, I’ve seen it in print. .38 Special is also a band. You ever heard Hold On Loosely? Or Hang On Sloopy? Never really understood how I could lose control if I was holding on tightly, not until I entered pubescence, anyway.

But hey, you’re not here for that kind of talk, you wanna hear about the songs, amirite? There’s an arc to some of the songs, a separate arc to others, and others stand alone as dots on a featureless plane. All told, I’m envisioning some kind of double banana situation with gnats flying around them, floating gracefully in the vacuum of space. I’d like to see .38 Special write a song about THAT! 

Kara Grainger – Living With Your Ghost

 

Living with Your Ghost is a rich gumbo of different emotions. own, a relentlessly seductive, distinctly modern take on roots rock, blues, and Americana

Album Notes
Some people just have music running through their veins. Kara Grainger’s musical journey has
taken her all around the globe. From her inner city beginnings in the town of Balmain, Sydney
Australia, she’s since performed and toured in Japan, Indonesia, India, Switzerland, Germany,
England and the USA . Her sultry, mesmerizing vocals and fiery approach to blues and slide
guitar has caught the attention of many well-respected artists. She has opened shows for Peter
Frampton, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Taj Mahal, Marc Cohn and Eric Johnson to name a few.

Around one year ago, Kara headed to Wire studios in Austin, Texas to record “Living With Your
Ghost”. The album was co-produced by Grammy award winner Anders Osborne, who also lends
his soulful guitar and vocals to the project. The album was engineered by Stuart Sullivan, also a
Grammy award winner, and the band included Ivan Neville on keys, The Texas Horns, J.J.
Johnson on drums, and Dave Monsey on bass.

The new album is a rich gumbo of different emotions and musical influences. There’s plenty of
reflection on the past, and a yearning for people that have come and gone; this is evident in the
title track, “Living With Your Ghost”, and the song “Nowhere to be Found”. “Working My Way
Back Home” tells about the struggle of love and life on the road as a traveling musician, while
songs like “Groove Train” and “You’re in New Orleans” uplift you from the day to day grind and
just leave you feeling good.

Vanja Sky – Bad Penny

Feat. Mike Zito & Bernard Allison Vanja Sky – a singer and guitarist from the Croatian capital Zagreb, first met the blues five years ago at a pub-concert near her hometown Buzet. That was a crazy evening, she laughs. I can not describe this special atmosphere. Immediately I decided to play the guitar – and when I make a decision, I bring it to an end. From there a leap into the year 2017.

Faster than she could have dreamed, Vanja Sky records a record with some of the biggest names in the blues business. First, she visits the Bessie Blues Studios in Stantonville, Tennessee, the workshop of Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines. There she plays with the two guitar colleagues Mike Zito and Bernard Allison, the crackling roadhouse blues ‘Low Down And Dirty’ one. A little later, she meets with Zito and a group of experienced studio musicians in Berlin to record another eleven pieces. The result ‘Bad Penny’ is now available – a mix of modern electric blues and classic, unfussy Rock’n’Roll.

Jeremiah Johnson – Straitjacket

 

Take a ride along the banks of the Mississippi River, pull up a stool in any St. Louis blues joint and talk will soon turn to the musician who’s giving the city it’s soundtrack. Jeremiah Johnson’s towering reputation has been hard-earned. In 2018, Straitjacket wears his soul on it’s sleeve. Produced by Mike Zito, and tracked live by the crack-squad studio band of Frank Bauer (sax/vocals), Benet Schaeffer (drums) and Tom Maloney (bass), the tracklisting takes in plenty of playful moments, like the title track’s hectic funk-blues complaint to a controlling girlfriend, or the grooving Dirty Mind, about a lover calling up for “a little company” at 2am Straitjacket album for sale. But elsewhere, personal songs like the addiction-themed Keep On Sailing bleed into the social commentary of Believe In America and Old School, which examines the spate of US shootings Straitjacket songs. It all ends with a cover of Alvin Lee’s classic Rock ‘N’ Roll Music To The World, which sees the band flex their astonishing chemistry and enjoy the ride Straitjacket buy CD music. The man himself hopes you will do the same: “I want people to let this record play from the first to the last note, crank it up at a party or riding through the night on a Harley-Davidson. I want it to make people feel like going on a trip of emotion… ” Straitjacket album for sale by Jeremiah Johnson was released Aug 24, 2018 on the Ruffhouse label.

 

Take a ride along the banks of the Mississippi River, pull up a stool in any St. Louis blues joint and talk will soon turn to the musician who’s giving the city it’s soundtrack. Jeremiah Johnson’s towering reputation has been hard-earned. In 2018, Straitjacket wears his soul on it’s sleeve. Produced by Mike Zito, and tracked live by the crack-squad studio band of Frank Bauer (sax/vocals), Benet Schaeffer (drums) and Tom Maloney (bass), the tracklisting takes in plenty of playful moments, like the title track’s hectic funk-blues complaint to a controlling girlfriend, or the grooving Dirty Mind, about a lover calling up for “a little company” at 2am Straitjacket album for sale. But elsewhere, personal songs like the addiction-themed Keep On Sailing bleed into the social commentary of Believe In America and Old School, which examines the spate of US shootings Straitjacket songs. It all ends with a cover of Alvin Lee’s classic Rock ‘N’ Roll Music To The World, which sees the band flex their astonishing chemistry and enjoy the ride

The man himself hopes you will do the same: “I want people to let this record play from the first to the last note, crank it up at a party or riding through the night on a Harley-Davidson. I want it to make people feel like going on a trip of emotion… ” Straitjacket album for sale by Jeremiah Johnson was released Aug 24, 2018 on the Ruffhouse label.

Austin Lucas – Immortal Americans

Austin Lucas has come home.

It’s been over two decades since the songwriter packed his bags and left Bloomington, Indiana, the Midwestern town where he spent his childhood years falling in love with rock & roll, embracing his punk roots, and standing his ground whenever intolerant locals didn’t understand his way of life. He returns to that place—both creatively and physically—with his seventh studio album, Immortal Americans. Written after a tumultuous period that found Lucas getting sober, supporting his partner through a battle with cancer, and breaking up with his longtime record label, Immortal Americans is a clear-eyed album for murkier times, rooted in stripped-down heartland rock songs that find the artist reflecting upon the changes in both his hometown and himself.

Co-produced by Lucas and Will Johnson (Centro-matic) and recorded/engineered by Steve Albini and captured in a series of live, full-band performances, Immortal Americans was written after Lucas resettled in Bloomington. He’d been away for years, touring the world as an independent solo artist before signing a record deal with New West in 2013. In many ways, the albums he released during that period were reflections of the music he’d grown up with, from the mountain music of his father (bluegrass musician Bob Lucas) to the punk records that soundtracked his teenage years. Appropriately, Lucas earned a fan base as a folksinger with punk roots—or was it the other way around?—while touring the country with artists who represented both ends of that spectrum, sharing shows with Willie Nelson one minute and Chuck Ragan the next.

Somewhere along the way, his vices began to get the best of him. He started drinking too much. He gained weight. His marriage crumbled. Albums like 2013’s cowpunk-inspired Stay Reckless and 2016’s Between the Moon and the Midwest shone a light on those challenges, tackling everything from divorce to depression. When Lucas hit rock bottom though, he stopped writing about his temptations and instead, left them behind for good. He headed back to southern Indiana, resettling himself in a town that had changed considerably since he left.

There, in a region suffering from an opioid epidemic, an HIV crisis, and a homelessness problem, Lucas focused on rebuilding his career and his body. He got sober, shedding more than 100 pounds. He recounted the stories of his youth, where, as an outsider in a small town, he dodged beer cans hurled by passing drivers. As he once more walked the Bloomington streets, he learned to embrace his own fighting spirit again. The album’s title track, “Immortal Americans,” emerged from that period of self-discovery.

“My friends and I had to fight for who we were,” he remembers of those early days in the Midwest, “and it was an alienating, anxious, and oftentimes scary way to live. This song is about that fight. It goes out to the most marginalized and at-risk human beings who live in our country, all the people who live on the outside of mainstream society and have to fight every day for their identities and for their existence—because those are the true immortal Americans.”

Meanwhile, Lucas’ new partner was fighting a different sort of battle. Lucas had discovered a lump on her body during their first evening together and the mass turned out to be cancerous. He became not only her romantic partner, but her caretaker too, nursing her back to health after a life-altering surgery and a string of energy-sapping chemotherapy sessions. Lucas continued writing music throughout the process, strumming an acoustic guitar quietly while his girlfriend slept in the next room. Although much of Immortal Americans is influenced by that experience, album standouts like “The Shadow and Marie” tackle the experience directly, shining a light on his partner’s vitality and unending beauty.

“The song opens up with dark lyrics,” he admits, “but the overall point is, ‘We’re still alive. We still have so much to be grateful for. As long as we’re still here, there’s beauty and joy.’ I wrote it to remind my lover that even though she’d been through a crazy ordeal in which her body was permanently changed, she was still beautiful to me. The song may start out on a low note, but as it builds, it goes to a place that’s brighter. It pushes toward something better. In many ways, that’s the theme of the whole record.”


When it came time to record his new songs at Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago, Lucas didn’t reach too far beyond the songs’ unplugged origins. He’d already been cut loose from his record label, which meant he was free to chase down his muse without any sort of outside influence. He consolidated his sound accordingly, stripping away the electric guitars and dense sonic landscapes that had permeated his recent albums. In their place, he focused on acoustic instruments and a restrained rhythm section, gluing everything together with lyrically-sharp songs that measured the distance between his rocky past and even-keeled present. The band—whose members included his Dad, who’d traveled north to play banjo with his son—crowded into the same room at Electrical Audio and played together, resulting in an all-analog album that’s both raw and real.

“I wanted it to sound like human beings playing instruments,” says Lucas, “I knew the best thing for this batch of songs was for them to sound as organic as possible. I sang live, playing guitar at the same time, and we worked very quickly. It was an in-the-moment kind of album.”

Immortal Americans is Austin Lucas’ homecoming album, created during a whirlwind period of tumult and regrowth. With its gothic heartland sound and autobiographical lyrics, it’s also Lucas at his most honest, rooted in a string of largely unamplified anthems that don’t rely on electricity to pack a punch.

“I was watching the changes in Bloomington and reflecting upon the changes in my own life,” he sums up. “Not all of this is happy stuff, but there’s hope. There’s light in the darkness. I really do believe in second and third chances, because I know how many chances I’ve received. You have to keep fighting, because that’s what makes life worth living.”

Or, in other words, that’s what makes you immortal.

Justin Hiltner & Jon Weisberger – Watch It Burn

Not many albums can be said to have an exact date of origin, but Watch It Burn, the collaboration between bluegrass musician-songwriters Justin Hiltner and Jon Weisberger, does – and it’s a dandy: August 21, 2017. That was the date of a total eclipse of the sun, the centerline of which passed barely a mile north of Weisberger’s Cottontown, TN home — a fact to which he’d been alerted months earlier by Hiltner — and the day when, in conversation with other viewing party guests, it dawned on the two that they’d written nearly an album’s worth of songs. It was an auspicious start.

Six years earlier, through mutual friends and the tight-knit nature of the Nashville roots music community, the pair met and sat down for their first co-write. Having spent entire lifetimes writing, playing, touting, and breathing bluegrass music, the songs that poured out were rooted solidly in the traditional precepts of the genre, while simultaneously playing on its innovative fringes. Without deadlines or publishing quotas, they continued to meet and write together in the months and years that followed for a few very simple reasons: They loved bluegrass, they loved creating, and they loved gabbing while indulging in imported cheeses.

The resulting record, Watch It Burn, reflects those preoccupations (except, perhaps for the imported cheeses), blending personal themes with those of classic country and bluegrass in an affectionate, well-crafted, yet emotionally resonant way. It’s a refreshing set of songs given the full-blown bluegrass band treatment by a clutch of outstanding young musicians: there’s a two-stepper that echoes countless country classics in its denial of heartbreak; an old-time flavored barn burner; a meditation on wistful-yetdefiant skepticism; a ‘grassy reflection on loneliness; a brother-style duet that sounds like it came straight from the 1950s, and more. It’s rare to find a collection so committed both to a contemporary insistence on emotional truth and to the masterful use of vintage lyrical, musical, and thematic approaches.

Calling on their best of friends and the tight-knit bluegrass circle that originally brought them together, Hiltner and Weisberger assembled a roster of pickers to rival any of the best roots albums being released today: Molly Tuttle, current reigning International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Guitar Player of the Year brings her signature ruthless virtuosity to the project. IBMA Momentum Award winners Casey Campbell and Tristan Scroggins split mandolin duty, providing a fascinating case study in divergent traditional approaches to the instrument. There’s also compatriot Brandon Godman, who conjured the record’s sole instrumental, “General Kuster,” sawing on the fiddle through nearly half of the album. Grand Master Champion fiddler Kimber Ludiker of the GRAMMY-nominated roots-grass ensemble Della Mae also plays twin fiddle, a much too rare role on modern bluegrass records. Straight-ahead powerhouses Corrina Logston (fiddle) and Amanda Fields (guitar) reinforce the album’s constant homages to the genre’s heritage. And finally, a modern legend of bluegrass music, Tim O’Brien, lends a soulful, vibrant lead vocal to “If I Were a Praying Man,” a slightly angsty song of uncertainty and introspection.

With such a distinctive combination of material and musicians, it’s perhaps no surprise that Watch It Burn seems destined to become an emblem for a new generation of traditional-leaning bluegrass — rooted in a deep knowledge of and love for the music’s past, yet organically reflective of the diversity that’s essential to bringing it into the future. While that might not have been exactly what Justin Hiltner and Jon Weisberger had in mind when they first sat down to write – or even what they contemplated on that hot August day when the project was born and the sun disappeared – it’s what they’ve achieved, and that’s something special indeed.

JUSTIN HILTNER

Justin Hiltner is a songwriter and banjoist based in Nashville, TN. His high-energy, Scruggs-style picking is unique in its combination of traditional aesthetic and progressive, improvisational, outside-the-box thinking. Over the course of his seven years in Music City he’s toured, performed, and collaborated with bluegrass greats such as Roland White, Laurie Lewis, Jim Lauderdale, Ronnie McCoury, Molly Tuttle, and Missy Raines. In 2016 he was nominated for IBMA’s Instrumentalist Momentum Award. An activist for inclusion and visibility, NPR Music called him “a leader in the burgeoning movement to welcome and highlight queer voices in bluegrass.” He produced the first ever showcase of diversity in bluegrass, now an annual event at IBMA’s business conference and he authors the eponymous “Shout & Shine” interview series, which focuses on underrepresented and marginalized identities in roots music, for The Bluegrass Situation.

JON WEISBERGER

Jon Weisberger was the first recipient of the IBMA’s Songwriter of the Year award in 2012. He’s spent the past decade and a half as a member of Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, with whom he’s scored nearly a dozen #1 hits as writer or performer; during that same period, he’s had close to 200 of his songs recorded by a broad array of bluegrass and related artists, from jamgrass favorites like the Travelin’ McCourys and the Infamous Stringdusters to traditional stalwarts such as Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers and Junior Sisk, and released two well-received solo albums. A member of the IBMA’s Board of Directors for 11 years, he has served for the same amount of time as producer and co-host of the popular Hand-Picked with Del McCoury show on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction.