Joe Ely and Joel Guzman
Though he hails from the same West Texas environs that birthed Buddy Holly and he practices the same roots regimen as fellow Flatlanders Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely is still an original. A crossover country troubadour, he delivers dust-blown narratives and tall tales that resonate with a grit and determination that echoes through every endeavor. Here he joins forces with accordionist Joel Guzman for a stirring live set of vivid Americana, one fully fueled by just the two musicians and their easy affinity with one another. Anyone trying to locate the essence of the heartland needn't look any further.
Eric Brace and Peter Cooper
You Don't Have to Like Them Both
What with the rapid decline of newspapers as we know them, it's comforting to know there's life beyond journalism. Take Peter Cooper, music editor of the Nashville Tennessean and collaborator with Eric Brace, leader of Nashville's Last Train Home. Cooper is a more than credible singer/songwriter, and when he meshes with Brace's abilities, the results are a mix of authentic Americana and back-porch banter. Their songwriting shows promise, but their taste in covers stands out, as they cull the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Jim Lauderdale, Todd Snider, and David Olney, among others. Despite an equally impressive array of contributors, the two's obvious rapport and down-home designs are most apparent here. So although the title suggests otherwise, there's plenty to like about them both.
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Richard X Heyman
Richard X Heyman is so talented that even his cast-offs sound exceptional. No wonder, then, that this collection of outtakes titled Intakes measures up to the finished product procured by the competition. Of course, those who have followed this New York-based retro rocker over the course of the past 20 years or so won't find that surprising; Heyman's penchant for power pop has set a standard that raises the bar for others of his ilk. Heyman's methods bring echoes of the Who, the Kinks, and the Hollies, but his effusive harmonies, exuberant melodies, and riveting arrangements make an even more indelible impression when one considers he plays the bulk of the instrumentation himself. Besides, anyone who allows himself to be pictured on the cover inhaling from a hookah is definitely a cool dude to begin with.