Tag Archives: Jamie Lee

The Horse’s Ha : Waterdrawn


I never, ever use the word dainty, but it comes to mind every time I spin The Horse’s Ha’s new album, Waterdrawn.

It isn’t so much the sound of the word, but its meaning. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition is “marked by delicate or diminutive beauty, form, or grace.” And this just about says it all.  James Elkington’s rich baritone and Janet Bean’s concise country-ish lilt fit hand-in-glove on the album’s succinct, stripped down tracks. His easy folk guitar is modest-yet-supple, and her approach complements with delicate phrasing, evident on the dreamy “Dying Tree.”

Waterdrawn is an irresistible songset that is as delicate as it is beautiful.

Waterdrawn is out now on Fluff and Gravy Records.

Steve Earle : The Warner Bros. Years

Steve Earle - Warner Bros Years

By the time Steve Earle released Train A Comin’, he had flirted with disaster while addicted to heroin and had only recently been released from prison for drugs and weapons charges. And just as these struggles could have been a last call for a promising young songwriter, this album signaled the rebirth of one of today’s greatest songwriters.

The Warner Bros. Years celebrates Train A Comin’, as well as subsequent classics I Feel Alright and El Corazon. This trio of releases captures a broad range of Earle’s powers; the first sees him stripped down with some older compositions of his own, as well as covers of his influences, like Townes Van Zandt and The Beatles; the second boasts classics like the definitive “Hardcore Troubadour” and the reflective “South Nashville Blues”; and the third documents a gradual move to bluegrass, and includes the classics “Christmas in Washington” and “Taneytown.” And while plenty has been written about these albums – both in the mid-‘90s when they were released and today, with this collection – it is the two live documents found in this four CD/one DVD box set that are truly spectacular.

Starting off with Live at the Polk Theater, recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, in December 1995, Earle – joined by Peter Rowan, Norman Blake, Roy Husky Jr., Bill Monroe, and Emmylou Harris – displays the energy of a songwriter back in his own  skin. The song selection is heavy on Train A Comin’ compositions, with a little Copperhead Road sprinkled in, and it works just fine. There is an audible excitement among the players, making this a top-notch performance that is seeing its first official release.

The DVD, To Hell and Back, documents a set played at Tennessee’s Cold Creek Correctional Facility in 1996. Backed by The Dukes (Mark Stuart, David Steele, Kelly Looney, and Custer), this show was a condition of Earle’s parole, and the band plays a spirited set, which is interspersed with interviews with the songwriter as well as inmates at the facility. It adds the visual to this collection, and while not a home run, it rounds out this already-robust package.

The era of Steve Earle’s career documented on The Warner Bros. Years isn’t his best, but it is no less remarkable. It marks the return of a true “hardcore troubadour” who has created one of the finest catalogues of American music in the 20th century.

The Warner Bros. Years is out now on Shout! Factory.

I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House : Mayberry

I Can Lick Any SOB - MayberryCover

There is more to Portland than the indie style and cool kid vibe lampooned on the hit comedy Portlandia. In fact, under the surface, things are pretty rough-and-tumble, both in life and in music.

Michael Dean Damron’s long running outfit I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House is just one example, and the hard-driving sextet bares bloody knuckles on Mayberry. Amid gritty guitars and runaway train harp, Damron longs for the untarnished olden days on the title track, and acknowledges the immanence of death on this and a handful more, like “Liars” and “Dead By Christmas Time.” Through it all, one thing is clear: Damron isn’t scared.

A lot of Mayberry is what you would expect from the group of hardened veterans. The rock-and-raunch sound is like a burnout at a bike rally, and Damron unflinchingly acknowledges his weaknesses and demons. But this is an older Michael Dean, one who has turned wily rebellion into laser-focused protest. No, he doesn’t like what he sees, and his well-oiled lyrics offer hard-won observations that are as prickly as they are wise.

According to Damron, Mayberry – the Andy Griffith vision of an idyllic, innocent town and lifestyle – “… is all dead and gone.” It’s a sad truth, but it is an image that serves I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House quite well on yet another stellar release.

Mayberry is out now and available through CDBaby.

Jason Isbell : Southeastern

Jason Isbell - Southeastern

Jason Isbell has risen to fame as a balladeer, and his newest release – notably attributed to him as a solo artist rather than to his band, the 400 Unit – is proof that he is one of the best in the business.

Southeastern covers more ground than just slow songs, but it is on these where Isbell’s talents come to bear. From the delicately plucked strings that introduce the album-opening “Cover Me Up,” he comes across as the weathered veteran that he is, worn down like driftwood by life’s challenges and personal demons. “Yvette” not only stands out, but it stands tall as arguably one of the best songs he has written. When the album does gain momentum on a few tracks, it does so with mixed results. “Stockholm,” a duet with Kim Richey, brims with lush orchestration, and “Flying Over Water” hangs comfortably on wiry guitar. In contrast, “Super 8,” although comprised of clever lyricism, comes across like generic honky-tonk.

In the end, it all comes back to those slow songs and the gentle sway of a songwriter who, recently sober and newly married, has seen a lot in his 34 years. Southeastern is another fine performance by Jason Isbell, whose career continues to flourish with each song he writes and album he releases.

Southeastern is out June 11 on Southeastern Records.

Bloodkin : One Long Hustle

Bloodkin - One Long Hustle

The sheer fact that there is 25 years worth of music to celebrate for a band like Bloodkin is a success in and of itself, so a retrospective like One Long Hustle is nothing short of remarkable.

One Long Hustle is a rear-view exploration of the highly prolific career of Daniel Hutchens and Eric Carter, spread across five discs of muddy demos, borrowed studio time, and rock-and-roll anthems. But what is remarkable through and through is the quality of the songwriting. Even in infancy, “Privilege,” “Can’t Get High” and  “Quarter Tank of Gasoline,” all taken from four-track recordings in 1988, boast a compositional structure that remains largely untouched after all of these years. The One False Move Sessions disc boasts a classic five-song sequence beginning with “Who Do You Belong Too?” and followed by “Wet Trombone Blues,” “Success Yourself,” “Leave It Alone,” and “End of the Show,” with Hutchens and Carter backed by pianist John Hermann, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance, and percussionist Domingo Ortiz of Widespread Panic. “Morning Chrome,” from the Chase Park Sessions disc, is pure Bloodkin rock.

The retrospective is organized by era and the location where the songs they were recorded, and while it isn’t exactly chronological, it makes sense when taking a collection this broad and created over this wild a time, and telling it as a story. And a story is really what this is. All previously unreleased, this is in no way a greatest hits collection. It is a rough, un-fettered telling of one of the darkest, saddest, rock-and-roll survival stories that anyone has ever written. It is about inception, birth, and countless explosions and rebirths. It is about musicians desperate for success, but ready and able to sabotage any opportunity that came their way. It is about the underdog who, even when on the biggest winning streak, is dealt a tragic hand.

If there is a message in these five discs, these 88 tracks, it is this: Don’t cry for Bloodkin. Don’t lament the well-deserved success that hasn’t come their way. Admire them for their tenacity, their love of music, and for the friendship of Daniel Hutchens and Eric Carter. One Long Hustle is an expansive collection of music that captures a career that Bloodkin didn’t choose, but that Hutchens and Carter were born into and survived, like Romulous and Remus. There have been many chapters in this unwieldy career, and one thing that the Bloodkin have done well is to close a door and open another. With One Long Hustle, the band does just this, signing off on the first 25 years and stepping into yet another era of Bloodkin.

One Long Hustle is out now on Terminus Records.

Mike Cooley : The Fool on Every Corner

Mike Cooley - The Fool on Every Corner

The Fool on Every Corner, the first solo release by Drive-By Truckers’ Mike Cooley, strips away the amps and his bandmates, leaving a man and his songs on stage for all to see. Recorded during a three show run in Georgia – a two-night stand at The Earl in Atlanta and a performance at The Melting Point in Athens – the album boasts some of his finest songs, reconfigured for a solo setting. “Cartoon Gold” stings with clever, concise wordplay and the delicate “Loaded Gun in the Closet” channels a painful tension that can only be released by firing a round. And while reworked takes on “Guitar Man Upstairs” and “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” don’t fare nearly as well in this setting, they do provide a fresh takes on Truckers’ classics that are worth a listen.

Mike Cooley’s contributions to Drive-By Truckers canon are often overshadowed by the hyper-prolific work of his cohort, Patterson Hood, but The Fool on Every Corner proves that his songwriting is just as essential.

The Fool on Every Corner is out now.

10 of 2012: Team Honest Tune’s Top 10 Albums of the Year

Top 10 - HeaderIt is hard to believe that 2012 is coming to a close in a matter of days, but it has been an impressive year of releases from across the musical spectrum. Members of the Drive-By Truckers stepped out on their own, Dr. John re-emerged with a little help from a Black Key, and Alabama Shakes took the airways by storm with their debut, Boys and Girls.
And this is only the tip of a mountain of monumental music.

The members of Team Honest Tune have taken some time and put together their personal top album lists. The lists are as varied as the personalities we have on staff here, from rock to bluegrass to metal. Spend a little time with our lists, check out any albums that you haven’t heard, and be prepared to enjoy some fine, fine music.


Tom Speed – Editor in Chief/Publisherdr-john-locked-down

  1. Dr. John: Locked Down – Full of funky gris-gris and retro soul, Dr. John proves on this collaboration with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach that even in his 70s, he is still the king of Voodoo.
  2. Jack White: Blunderbuss – The first album in White’s already extensive oeuvre to actually be credited to him as a solo artist, Blunderbuss is a wide-ranging display of his rock bombast craftsmanship and his appreciation for moving American music forward.
  3. Tame Impala: Lonerism – This lush slice of pastoral psychedelia is both a blast to the past and an entrancing excursion into modern day sunshine pop.
  4. Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons: Happy Book – There’s nary a clunker on this double-disc collection that feels like the culmination of Joseph’s decades long career as a prolific songwriter, a collection that is all the more glorious for harnessing the unique maelstrom that occurs when his songs are expressed through the Jackmormons.
  5. Alabama Shakes: Girls & Boys – One of the most buzzed about bands of the year shows why on this stunning, soulful debut.
  6. Hurray For The Riff Raff: Look Out Mama Look Out Mama is a gorgeous, timeless work of wonder. Alynda Lee Segarra and company deftly mingle Americana sounds from all over the map; dust-bowl ballads, old-timey string bands and folk blues all play prominently, all the while hearkening to times gone by.
  7. Jimbo Mathus: Blue Light – In just six songs, the Mississippi maestro cooks up a cauldron of blues, R&B, soul and country that celebrates rock-and-roll at the molecular level.
  8. Dent May: Do Things – Ditching the ukulele and instead delving into synth grooves, dance-floor shenanigans and Pet Sounds pop, May produced the summer’s most summery release.
  9. Howlin Rain: The Russian WildsHard rock ain’t dead. It’s alive and well on this expansive, scorching ’70s flashback of crunchy, lighter-waving rockers, replete with feedback, some horns and songs about werewolves.
  10. The Lumineeers : Self-Titled While Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, and other stalwarts of the so-called roots revival movement may have garnered more mainstream buzz, the best record of the genre came from this Colorado-based trio and their self-titled debut, a record infused with vocals both plaintive and rousing and an infectious energy that elevate a prodigious selection of original songs to great heights.


Josh Mintz – Managing EditorTedeschi_Trucks_Talkin

  1. Tedeschi Trucks Band: Everybody’s Talkin’ – It’s almost unfair to put a live album as number one, but this album is so good it warrants it. It shows the Tedeschi Trucks Band where they should be – onstage, absolutely tearing through their catalog with reckless abandon. From Trucks to Tedeschi to the brothers Burbridge, the album gives all of the players a chance to shine.
  2. Avett Brothers: The Once and Future Carpenter – The Avett Brothers have matured into one of the best bands on the planet, and The Once and Future Carpenter is another large leap forward.
  3. Chris Robinson Brotherhood: Big Moon Ritual – It’s spacey in all the right places, and groovy in every way, just as psychedelic music should be.
  4. Howlin’ Rain: The Russian Wilds – Another phenomenal offering from one of the best little-known rock bands on the planet.
  5. Alabama Shakes: Boys and Girls – There’s something magically raw about this debut release. It’ll be tough to follow up.


Jamie Lee – CD/DVD Reviews EditorPatterson_Hood_Heat_Lightning

  1. Patterson Hood : Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance – Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood delivers on his third – and best – solo album. It is vivid, gritty, and full of feeling.
  2. Neurosis : Honor Found in Decay – To say that Neurosis are in the zone would be an understatement. This album sounds as if the instruments are playing the musicians, and they don’t let up.
  3. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit : Live from Alabama – Jason Isbell continues to cement his reputation as one of the era’s premier songwriters, and he proves on Live from Alabama that he can not only write, but he can perform.
  4. Baroness : Yellow & Green – Baroness reinvented themselves on Yellow & Green with succinct, rocking songs that lack the progressive leanings of previous releases, but make up for them with pure, concise power.
  5. Howlin’ Rain : The Russian Wilds – Howlin’ Rain can’t help but nod to ‘70s-era rock, and they do so with warmth, muscle, and a freshness that is rare.
  6. Glossary : Long Live All of Us – Glossary continue to churn out soulful songs that showcase Joey Kneiser’s songwriting and infectious harmonies he shares with wife Kelly. Long Live All of Us may have flown beneath the radar of the mainstream, but that in no way indicates the impact of this album.
  7. Isis : Temporal – Two years after calling it quits, Isis return with a  collection of rarities that hits all of the right spots. The sonic mastery of this band is to be reckoned with, even on stripped down demos found here.
  8. Stew & the Negro Problem : Making It – Brimming with polished compositions and clever wordplay, Making It is a cinematic collection by Stew and cohort Heidi Rodewald.
  9. Royal Thunder : CVI – Atlanta’s Royal Thunder followed up a solid 2010 eponymous EP with CVI, a debut that is Sabbath-thick and heaving. At the forefront are the breathtaking vocals of powerhouse Mlny Parsons.
  10. Mike Cooley : The Fool On Every Corner – On his first solo album, Mike Cooley is captured live, acoustic, and rummaging through covers and songs from his Drive-By Truckers catalog. With banter that is engaging as the music is spirited, this album clearly articulates his stellar songwriting prowess.


Tim Newby – Features Editor Dr. Dog  - Be The Void

  1. Dr. Dog : Be The Void – Dr. Dog have been on a hot streak of late, from Fate to Shame, Shame to their latest album, Be the Void.  This is classic Dr. Dog, full of quirky songs that wear their Beatles, the Band, and Neil Young influences on their sleeve. They are loud and proud, sounding like they were written for drunken campfire sing-alongs.  That is a good thing … a really good thing.
  2. Justin Townes Earle : Nothing’s Going to Change the Way You Feel About Me Now –When you are the son of Steve Earle and named after Townes Van Zandt, you have some big shoes to fill. On Nothing’s Going to Change the Way You Feel About Me, Earle proves just how big his feet really are as he crafts a songwriter’s masterpiece resplendent with horns, Nashville soul, and a lyrically open frankness that is at times a troubling, personal narrative of the demons he struggles with.
  3. Jack White : Blunderbuss – Jack White has been on tear, and everything he touches seems to turn to gold, from the White Stripes to the Raconteurs to The Dead Weather, and now with his first solo album.  Despite the strength and greatness of all his various projects, heading out on his own has freed White up to go where he pleases with little concern.
  4. Alabama Shakes : Boys & Girls – Refreshingly retro with their rock-and-soul sound, Alabama Shakes follow up last year’s massive hype with Boys & Girls, their full-length debut, and they do not disappoint.  All throaty-howl and swampy-grooving guitar, the Shakes make music that, while clearly reminiscent of classic-rock-long-gone, is also as equally forward looking with a hint of punk’s unbridled fury and indie-guitar’s angst.  Music like this makes it fun to get up each morning.
  5. Cloud Nothings : Attack on Memory – It’s easy to try and peg Attack on Memory as a ’90s nostalgia trip, with sludgy guitars, Pixies- Nirvana soft/loud dynamic, and Steve Albini manning the production duties. However, the nine-minute second track, “Wasted Days,” quickly blows that theory out of the water, as it more closely resembles Television’s guitar-freak-out-jam “Marquee Moon.”  That is the genius of Attack on Memory, the way it subtly hints at past greatness, but creates its own unique path.
  6. Punch Brothers : Who’s Feeling Young Now – While rooted in bluegrass, the Chris Thiele-led Punch Brothers explode across the musical universe with their hyperactive kid approach that finds them taking choices coaxing unimaginable sounds from their simple acoustic instruments.  It is space-age bluegrass.  For proof of their otherworldly creativity one only need to listen to their mind-blowing cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A.”
  7. Grizzly Bear – Shields – Shields is not an easy album to get to know. It is deep, dark, and complex, requiring multiple listens to truly absorb all its beauty.  It is not an album that lends itself to loud parties or drinking with friends, but rather one that unfolds over time, revealing itself slowly, before rewarding the patience of the listener with a gorgeous aural trip.
  8. Anders Osborne – Black Eye Galaxy Black Eye Galaxy is a well-developed song-cycle with Osborne leading the listener on a brutally honest, painful journey from his past demons into his future.  It is an open book to a man’s soul, a painful reminder of how flawed we can all be, but told with a touch of unflinching beauty and thunderous guitar.
  9. Cris Jacobs – Songs for Cats & Dogs – After a decade spent as the driving force behind The Bridge, Jacobs has stepped out on his own and released his solo debut-album, Songs for Cats & Dogs. With his storyteller’s eye, passionate guitar, and fiery, expressive voice, he has created an album of deeply, powerful music which defies easy categorization.  It is an album that has an intoxicating, irresistible, rootsy groove that seems to explode from the past with its timeless quality.
  10. Beach House – Bloom – Bloom is all ambient glory and huge, undulating sonic-landscapes awash with singer Victoria Legrand’s ethereal voice filling the sky above.  Following up 2010’s masterful Teen Dream, Bloom expands on the ideas first presented there and finds the Baltimore duo infusing their songs with a hook-based approach that allows those dreamy, textured moments to explode.

Honorable Mention – Dr. John : Locked Down, Gary Clark Jr : Blak & Blu, Jimmy Cliff : Rebirth


Sarah Tollie – ContributorEd Sheeran_Debut

  1. Ed Sheeran : + – With his simply titled album +, Ed Sheeran has brought about a rebirth of the bare-boned, bare-souled songwriter in his native Britain—and this year, he’s made waves stateside. The Brit Award-winner is now Grammy-nominated with his lead single “The A Team.” Other memorable offerings from + include “Lego House,” “Small Bump,” “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” and “Give Me Love.”
  2. Annie & the Beekeepers : My Bonneville – Boston-based Annie & the Beekeepers have been festival-circuit darlings for several years, and that’s due in large part to two key things: 1) Annie Lynch’s stuck-to-your-bones vocals and 2) her group’s excellent knack for creating excellent albums. This year’s My Bonneville, with such gems as “An Island” and “Always My Heart is True,” is no exception.
  3. Mumford and Sons : Babel – With Babel, Marcus Mumford and company have crafted a second full-length set filled to the brim with sonic gems. It comes as no surprise, then, to hear of the band’s recent honors: From radio-ready and critic-friendly lead single “I Will Wait” to Grammy nominations to their highly successful Gentlemen of the Road tour, Mumford and Sons are riding high—and rightly so—on the strength of this set.
  4. Silbermond : Himmel Auf – Silbermond’s name might conjure up classical music thoughts, and its latest album title, confusion for non-German speakers, but this Teutonic band speaks volumes and breaks barriers with its music. With Himmel Auf (or roughly, “Sky open” in English), Silbermond connects with listeners on a deeper level: The disc  plays boldly, beautifully with ever-ethereal vocals from Stefanie Kloss and driving beats from members Andreas Nowak, Johannes Stolle, and Thomas Stolle.
  5. JD McPherson : Signs and Signifiers – JD McPherson serves up semiotics, soul, rock, and blues on his much-abuzz major label debut. Signs and Signifiers sets fire with tracks such as “North Side Gal” and the aptly-titled “Fire Bug.” Rolling Stone has caught McPherson’s flame, too, naming him an “Artist to Watch” in its November 19 issue.
  6. Ellie Goulding : Halcyon – Following the still-building buzz of her debut single “Lights,” British electro-pop songstress Ellie Goulding returned triumphantly this year with her sophomore effort, Halcyon. From the pulsing lead single “Anything Could Happen” to the emotive track “Only You,” Goulding’s whisper of a voice shouts and softens at all of the right moments.
  7. Hanson :  No Sleep for Banditos The Tulsa trio’s mini studio effort No Sleep for Banditos was released earlier this year as part of an exclusive fan club package. But, on the strength of this five-track set, one thing is clear: Hanson warrants a wider audience. The standout song is the EP’s fourth track, the rousing and rocking “Heartbreaker.”
  8. Shovels and Rope : O’ Be Joyful It’s possible that Shovels and Rope might have never happened: Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent had carved their own sonic paths with their own full-length efforts, Lions and Lambs and The Winner, respectively. Luckily, Hearst and Trent released their second effort, O’ Be Joyful, earlier this year. Key tracks on this funk and folk, country and rock set include “Birmingham” and “Tickin’ Bomb.”
  9. Gossip : A Joyful Noise – After a brief foray into the solo world, powerhouse front woman Beth Ditto fully returned to her band this year with Gossip’s fifth full-length set, A Joyful Noise. Following the delightful bop and pop, disco and dance of Music for Men, this album finds the worldly (by way of Arkansas) band breaking new sonic—and certainly, stuck-to-your-bones—ground. Catchy, dance-y keepers include the Madonna-esque lead single “A Perfect World” and “Love in a Foreign Place.”
  10. Alex Band : After the Storm – Former frontman of rock band The Calling, Alex Band is back with another brief, but haunting, set. After the Storm finds Band traversing the darker depths of childhood, love, and relationships. Set atop sweeping, mid-tempo beats, “Take Me Back,” “Right Now,” and “King of Anything” show Band at his best.


Brett Bickley – ContributorJerry_Joseph_Happy_Book

  1. Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons : Happy Book – Yes, artists still release double albums. And this? It is the best rock album of 2012.
  2. Trixie Whitley : Fourth Corner – Forget Adele. Trixie is the most brilliant female artist performing and recording today.
  3. Mike Dillon : Urn – I don’t even know where to begin. But trust me, this guy is the real deal.
  4. Lettuce : Fly Fly is just one of the many reasons why Eric Krasno is one of the most amazing musicians recording today. Plus, you can dance all night to it.
  5. Medeski, Martin & Wood : Free Magic – This ain’t your father’s jazz. Intriguingly intricate, interesting, and damn fine.
  6. Wil Blades & Billy Martin : Shimmy How can two Caucasians sound this funky? Apparently, quite easily.
  7. Will Johnson : Scorpion – If My Morning Jacket love this guy, you can’t go wrong. You can feel the sand and tumbleweeds as you listen to this slice of desert Americana.
  8. Gaslight Anthem : Handwritten – Next to Bruce, the band that makes me proud to live in New Jersey.
  9. Chris Robinson Brotherhood : Big Moon Ritual/The Magic Door Forget Phish. This is the band that will replace The Grateful Dead.
  10. Swans : The Seer – The genius of Michael Gira returns to us in walls of emotion and noise. It is guaranteed to peel your soul open and lay it bare.