I’ve encountered some really great roots music these first three months of 2023, and thought I would feature some of the finest as my Favourites of the First Quarter. They are not necessarily in position order from 1 to 12, but they could be…
Iris DeMent- Workin’ On A World It has been too many years since we had a new album from Iris DeMent. Workin’ On A World arrives as many of us were giving up on this world. “Workin’ on a world I may never see” hit me hard; it’s what I’ve been trying to do for 36 years, and I’m not gonna stop now. Every line within the title cut resonates, and that continues through the other dozen songs. So much to appreciate here: a beautiful album of superior performances.
Ron Sexsmith- The Vivian Line The Vivian Line is an incredible recording, one I am pleased to support for Polaris ’23. Sexsmith captures moments with lyrical originality and aural glances to the past. Ron has his inner Kinks on full display (“What I Had In Mind,” “Country Mile”) while capturing his sincere appreciation for songs of interpersonal devotion (“Diamond Wave,” “One Bird Calling”) with a side of subtle humour (“Barn Conversion,” “Outdated and Antiquated”). Beautifully played, a nice variety of tempos and approaches. I love the ‘clippity clop’ rhythm of “Ever Wonder,” and the indirect cleverness of “This, That, The Other Thing.” There is a longing song called “Power Blue” that is lovely, and “Flower Boxes” is another highlight. Sexsmith’s nth great album in succession.
Tim Stafford & Thomm Jutz- Lost Voices Reviewed here
The Long Ryders- September November Not every band gets a second chance, or a third one. When they are a personal favourite, it is that much sweeter. Sid, Stephen, and Greg were rocked when Tom Stevens passed, but September November comes close to matching the strength and power of Psychedelic Country Soul (2019). A few more listens, and it may just get there.
The Burnt Pines- Don’t Look Down Reviewed here
Austin Mayse- Bridges and Kerosene Reviewed here
The Gibson Brothers- Darkest Hour Chris Jones recently quipped that Bluegrass music wouldn’t exist without brothers who hated each other. I am confident that accurate generalization doesn’t extend to Eric and Leigh Gibson. Another outstanding album of original bluegrass built on the traditions and taken to another level.
Buddy Mondlock- Filament Reviewed here
Starlett and Big John- Living In The South Reviewed here
Kathy Kallick & Dodi Kallick- What Are They Doing in Heaven Today? Reviewed here
Angela Easterling- Witness Reviewed here
Wolfpen Branch- Long Hill to Climb A bluegrass/old-time/jamband-ish outfit that I hadn’t previously heard, but this Kentucky band hit me upside the head with strong playing, good vocals, and songs (“Don’t Have A Clue”, “Alone and Insincere”) that have just enough self-deprecation to make them more appealing than most with others like “Burnin’ the Midnight Oil” and “Long Hill to Climb” more traditionally structured.
Honourable Mention because it was released in late 2022 but I only bought it this month.