[9/25 UPDATE] Bluesky Bullet Points: September 2023

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Bluesky Bullet Points, a collection of rapid fire album reviews first shared on our Bluesky social media account.

This post will be updated throughout the month.

9/25 UPDATE:  Margo Cilker, Charles Wesley Godwin, Brent Cobb, Emily Ann Roberts, Devandra Banhart, Lydia Loveless, Karen & the Sorrows, and Dalton Dover.

9/17 UPDATE: Brothers Osborne, Zach Bryan, Larry Fleet, Posey Hill, and Allison Russell.

Margo Cilker

Valley of Heart’s Delight

Rare for an album in this exact vein not to have that slathered-in-Vaseline-by-Dave-Cobb sound, and the ramshackle production suits Cilker’s singing and narrative voices just fine. Masterful economy of language, and unafraid of humor. Just brilliant.


Charles Wesley Godwin

Family Ties

Continues his ascent as a songwriter in league w current genre greats (“Miner Imperfections,” y’all), w skill to match his scope and ambition. Vocals remain a liability, though: A better singer (Bentley, CoJo, McBryde) could get a radio hit off “Two Weeks Gone.”

Various Artists

More Than a Whisper

Griffith deserves far better than this wildly uneven tribute album. Some highlights (Strings & Tuttle, Snider, Earle, DeMent), to be sure, but far more comatose arrangements and veterans (Emmylou, sadly, and especially Colvin) who, frankly, sound just awful.


Brent Cobb

Southern Star

His inspired gospel set suggested he’d finally gotten over his fear of his capacity for greatness; here’s he’s regressed to his very-very-good mean. The danger of making a record like this about embracing a low-key persona is that the subtext becomes the text.


Emily Ann Roberts

Can’t Hide Country

I expected more Music Row pap. 30 seconds in, I was blown away by the voice, clever POV, and twangy-AF production. Niche comparison: The vibe here is a reincarnated Dawn Sears, just with a higher-pitched voice. A tremendous trad-country debut.


Devendra Banhart

Flying Wig

A lifetime removed from the freak-folk aesthetic of his early-aughts output, though his economic use of language remains a bit of a throughline. This continues his evolution in an EDM direction, which is fine, though I’m more partial to FLUME’s soundscapes.


Lydia Loveless

nothing’s gonna stand in my way again

Her best, and she’s always been fantastic. Bonus for not actually including a Wilco cover. Her self-assessments transcend the mere vulnerable and are, instead, savage and withering, and she’s grown into the power in her voice. Peak form “alt-country.”


Karen & the Sorrows

Why Do We Want What We Want

Heady, dense, macabre in all the best ways, and I mean it as the highest of praise that this favorably recalls Gretchen Peters’ Blackbirds album in terms of the caliber of the songwriting and the overall sustained tone. This is a wonder of mood, observation.


Dalton Dover

Never Giving Up On That

Utterly anonymous mainstream country, albeit with better vocals than the Wallen – Zimmerman axis. But if you’d told me this was, say, Thomas Rhett or Sam Hunt trying to sound on-trend? I’d have believed you, including the horrific, adenoidal Alicia Keys cover.

Brothers Osborne

Brothers Osborne

Once again, they struggle to capture the energy and fearlessness of their live shows on record, but this is still a mainstream country album that’s forward-thinking in both style and POV. And it sounds like there are actually some viable hits, too, and that’s a win.


Larry Fleet

Earned It

On-trend in the sense that it’s a 90s country throwback and is a billion years long, the vibe here is very specifically an updated, less nasal Aaron Tippin. Which, sure, that’s a niche that’s gone unfilled, but for 21 songs?


Posey Hill

No Clear Place to Fall

A very pretty record that’s otherwise pretty ordinary catnip for genre purists. The track about keeping the Tyler Childers vinyls in a breakup is the obvious standout; the rest is rarely more distinctive.


Allison Russell

The Returner

Feels like a well-earned reprieve and victory lap after the marrow-deep Outside Child, but it’s still her second straight Album of the Year contender. Easy to wish she’d stay country-adjacent because she’s so good at it, but this is a joyous modern soul record.


Zach Bryan

Zach Bryan

I remain in the, “He’s very good, but not great,” camp, but this shows some much-needed quality control and editing. The writing and band are tighter, while the vocals make a “pro” case for ProTools,” especially w War & Treaty, Musgraves.


Tyler Childers

Rustin’ in the Rain

Continues to follow his own muse, rather than cater to a Stanbase that demands he re-record Purgatory ad infinitum, and that’s to his credit. Here, only the limitations of his band, especially J. Wells, hold him back.


Ashley McBryde

The Devil I Know

Fair to say now she’s staked a claim as a generational talent, but wish she and Joyce had hipper taste in rock influences because she for sure has the chops for it. As is, this is her most uneven set to date, but the peaks are the highest, and there are many.


Tim McGraw

Standing Room Only

He seems lost in attempting to navigate transition to legacy act status: No longer getting first-dibs on the best of Music Row’s pro songwriters’ latest, he leans on bombast and gimmickry that foreground the technical limitations he’s spent decades masking.


Various Artists

A Song For Leon: A Tribute to Leon Russell

A mixed bag, even by the standards of this kind of thing. It’s the most country-centered acts (Margo Price, Orville Peck) who fare the best, while the rest of it scans as competent, rote. Fine for what it is, but inessential.


Morgan Wade


“They told me all of my cages were mental / So I got wasted like all my potential,” wasn’t meant to be career advice. It’s unclear what Wade’s POV is supposed to be. The few sparse country signifiers never point the way, and the lyrics and tone scan as therapy-speak.

Turnpike Troubadours

A Cat in the Rain

Not a full-on return to peak form, but not terribly far removed from it. Not a full-on bid for mainstream attention, but not terribly far removed from that, either. The insufferable Stanbase will grumble about both, but it’s still one of the year’s best.


Reyna Roberts

Bad Girl Bible Vol. 1

Still fully behind Roberts as a should-be megastar: The voice and the genre-spanning style are formidable. But the songwriting here is regrettably one-note, taking its strident bad girl posturing and (stompin’ four-four) beating it to death.


Joshua Ray Walker

What is it Even?

A response to bigoted internet trolls, What Is It Even? explodes country music’s obsession with performative, toxic masculinity. JRW sings the absolute fire out of Whitney, LeAnn, Lizzo, Sinead, and Regina, and turns Cher’s “Believe” into a country two-step. Essential.


  1. Love the short-form quick takes. I’d been looking forward to the new Ashley McBryde record, but it’s not doing too much for me. Despite a few exceptions, many of the songs come across as retreads, and Joyce’s production overwhelms more often than not. I didn’t know about Joshua Ray Walker’s covers collection, though. Thanks for highlighting it!

    • Agreed on the Ashley record. I love her and was looking forward to a new album but just didn’t love it. There were a few great songs I’ll put in the playlist but probably not an album I’ll revisit as a whole.

  2. …after the snap review on ashley mcbryde’s new album i was almost a little worried for a moment. after listening to it a couple of times, i am more than happy with it. she’s managed to capture the day to day life of the ordinary people exceptionally well in her stories/songs once again. “lindeville” was spectacular, but this is not far behind – just less over the top. dement, clark, mckenna and now ashley mcbryde have deliverd in very nice ways this year. much food for thought for the grammy people, i guess.

  3. …you might be a redneck, if dalton dover looks a lot like your personal trainer..

    …you might be a red neck, if you flipped over that cover of lydia loveless’ album the moment you got hold of it.

    …you might be a red neck, if you wake up with a hair cut like zach bryan’s.

    …you migth be a red neck, if you think various artists is a funny name for a dude.

    …you migth be a red neck, if you think larry fleet has fudge rounds in mind.

    god bless jeff foxworthy.

  4. Saw Dalton Dover live and while his vocals were strong, his material was so generic it sounded like background music. The only saving grace of his set was the aforementioned Alicia Keys cover.

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