Bluesky Bullet Points: June 23, 2024

This week features ten new releases, including Willie Nelson’s latest addition to an extraordinary run of albums.


Lauren Watkins

The Heartbroken Record

The strongest mainstream debut since Ashley McBryde’s. That Watkins clears a low bar is not to damn with faint praise: She has the goods as a songwriter with a thoroughly modern POV but a mind for genre traditions… and a raspy voice that’s actually on key.


George Ducas

Long Way From Home

90s star-who-should’ve-been continues a winning resurgence with his most consistent album to date. He’s in particularly strong voice and leans hard into his Bakersfield influences on a record that impresses for how lean the production and songwriting both are.


Various Artists

Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty

That thing when you know the right notes (unless you’re Hilary Scott or Thomas Rhett…) but cannot hear the music. A few standouts here (Jamey Johnson, Rhiannon Giddens, Dolly Parton), but too many artists getting run the whole way over on covers that miss the vibe, spirit of Petty’s best.



Luke Combs

Fathers & Sons

His ongoing maturation has been one of the country mainstream’s most positive influences over the last three years. He’s dubbed this a side-project, but it’s the most consistently empathetic and thoughtful– and most consistent, full stop– album he’s released yet.

Lonesome River Band

The Winning Hand

Venerable Bluegrass outfit continues to stand out by focusing on the heft of their arrangements, which incorporate country and blues elements to great effect, over fast-picking wizardry. Some clever songs make this a standout set in a strong year for Bluegrass.


Madeline Hawthorne

Tales From Late Nights & Long Drives

Some of these tales are more compelling and distinctive than others, but the ones that hit are really top-notch. Hawthorne has a terrific voice, too: There’s a bit of Lacy J Dalton in there that’s perfectly suited to her POV as a songwriter.


Blanco Brown

Cedar Walls & Whiskey [EP]

Points for consistency, I suppose: This is indistinguishable in form and content from the EP he released just weeks ago. He continues to coast on force of personality and general goodwill moreso than the quality of his actual songs, which are merely serviceable.


Monsters of Folk

Monsters of Folk (Deluxe Edition)

An album I loved at the time, which tracks, but which I find intermittently insufferable now, which also tracks. “Ahead of the Curve” is still the standout on this and just a great song, period. None of the new tracks improve the overall album.


Norman North

To Be Honest

Fewer country signifiers here than he usually offers, which is fine, but the caliber of the songwriting isn’t up to his usual standards, which is unfortunate. A better version of the recent Sam Hunt EP in this specific lane, sure, but North typically clears higher bars.


Willie Nelson

The Border

He’s been so prolific– and so inconsistent– for so long that it’s perhaps easy to miss that he’s been on [SELECT ONE: one of / the] longest sustained run(s) of extraordinary records of his career, and that continues here. A mood piece given depth by his aged voice.


  1. Willie just might be another Dick Clark–a man who never seems to age (although we know that even he has suffered from the ravages of time, too).

    One typo about the Lonesome River Band–you accidentally called them the Little River Band. It’d be wise not to confuse the Lonesome River Band with the Australian pop-rock band that had hits such as “Reminiscing”, “Lady”, and “Cool Change” during the 70’s and early 80’s.

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