This week’s highlights include four star efforts from Chatham County Line, Sarah Jarosz, and Brent Amaker and the Rodeo.
Love Ain’t Pretty
I didn’t really watch Nashville to compare this to whatever he sang on the show, but, as a standalone album, this seems to waste Esten’s comic timing on mostly middling songs that aren’t helped by Jackson Maine enunciation choices and nondescript production.
William Elliott Whitmore
Silently, the Mind Breaks
Quite good, if not a full-on return to his peak form and not able to live up to a great title and cover art. When his songwriting is less on-the-nose, he makes his broader political points more effectively. As ever, his world-weary voice is a wonder.
A fine collection of moody, technically-accomplished and thoughtfully arranged instrumentals, broken up by a couple of ace duets with his forever partner-in-crime, Rosanne Cash. Guitar nerds wlll geek out over the tone, for sure.
Chatham County Line
Proggy and atmospheric in a way that recalls peak-era Flaming Lips, and just as melodic and lush as that comparison implies. Some killer harmony work here, too, and a full command of country, bluegrass, and folk influences make this an essential listen.
Josh Abbott Band
Somewhere Down the Road
A pleasant surprise, with clever turns of phrase and some truly memorable hooks (“Astronaut,” “Brutus, Jesus, and You”) to bolster their rowdy brand of roadhouse country. Another, “Why Old Dominion and not these guys?” sitch that would instantly improve radio.
A bid for greater accessibility, and it suits her just fine. She’s giving Golden Hour in the song structures and aesthetic without sacrificing the nervy, studied introspection she’s known for. Pop-country doesn’t have to be a negative; neither does pop-Americana.
A slightly better iteration of the one exact POV and sound that women in mainstream country are allowed to have right now. Bowen has a strong voice that could certainly hold up to material that’s more robust or interesting than what’s here.
Brent Amaker and the Rodeo
The stylized vocals won’t be for everyone, but the whole spaghetti-western bass-voice recitation aesthetic is very much in my wheelhouse, and they hit most every mark for what it is they’re setting out to do here. Only some lapses in lyric quality detract.