Although this isn’t a new album, it’s possible that many people haven’t heart of it. And since it’s one of my favorites, I felt an obligation to shine a light on it. Rare Bird Alert is a modern bluegrass album by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. What’s that you ask, “Steve Martin of SNL and Pink Panther fame?” Why yes. For fans of Martin, this is good news, since his comedic chops do shine through here, but true bluegrass enthusiasts shouldn’t overlook this album. Rare Bird Alert includes purely instrumental songs like “The Great Remember,” soothing and meandering, and “Northern Island,” featuring banjo-picking at lightning speed. On some tracks Martin takes the lead on vocals, and on others the Rangers get the honor. Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks make guest appearances. I love the range of this album, its humor, and the contrasts created. The hilarious break-up song “Jubilation Day” is lively, and although funny, is also a bona fide bluegrass song, a musical treat. Mellow songs like “More Bad Weather On the Way,” always makes me feel like I’m rowing along a river on a sunny day, and “Women Like To Slow Dance” is actually a fast-paced song fit for dancing a jig! While most of the songs are not comedy-album material, the nonsensical “King Tut” is the most likely to make you laugh out loud. “Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia…”
This husband-and-wife duo’s debut album features catchy country rock songs. You may have heard their hit single “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” on the radio. Fun lyrics, great music, and complementary voices make Thompson Square a great album to listen to for summer. They’ve drawn comparisons to Sugarland (and even beat them out for the 2012 Academy of Country Music's Vocal Duo of the Year), but they have a sound all their own. Check out a review of the album from The Washington Post. Visit their website for more on Thompson Square.
American Saturday Night by Brad Paisley (2009) One of the most enjoyable albums I’ve listened to in a long time, American Saturday Night has an engaging mix of humorous and poignant songs. Paisley co-wrote all of the songs on the CD, including the #1 single “Then,” the fun title song “American Saturday Night,” the thought-provoking “No,” and the catchy “Welcome to the Future.” Check out The Washington Post review, visit Paisley’s official site, and find his other CDs at the library.
The List by Rosanne Cash (2009) When Rosanne was eighteen, her dad, Johnny Cash, was saddened that his daughter had never heard of so many classic American songs that he felt were an essential part of their musical heritage. So the Man in Black wrote a list of 100 songs that he felt she should know. This CD features twelve of those songs, including “Girl from the North Country,” “500 Miles,” and "Heartaches by the Number." Cash does a wonderful rendition of these classics and on some pieces is accompanied by other artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello. I am not a country music fan, but this CD of wonderful traditional country folk songs is beautiful and highly recommended. Listen to an NPR interview and check out a review at AllMusic.com.
Two Men with the Blues by Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis (2008) Two Men with the Blues is truly something special. Recorded on January 12 and 13, 2007, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, two of the most significant figures in modern-day country and jazz, stirred the sounds of New Orleans, Nashville, Austin and New York City into a joyous live performance of blues and standards. Try it – you'll like it!
One of the Boys by Gretchen Wilson (2007) The one thing you can count on from Gretchen Wilson is that she is an original. She co-wrote 9 of the 11 songs on this album. She said it is her diary set to music. It is a country album with the steel guitars, fiddles and authentic feelings. As vulnerable as she might seem, there is the strength of a woman who knows her way and does not compromise her talent. She will rock you, make you cry, show you a good time and touch your heart. Visit CMT.com for the complete lyrics and to listen to a sample from each song.