Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder

Bloodshot, 2014

A direct hit of rollicking, old school country rock, with more superstar cameos than there’s space to mention. Branan’s songs appear more upbeat these days, but the gentle, romantic moments are still present, if coming from the angle of a punk-fueled, alt-country cult hero. Soulful, twang-filled and rugged, yet so easily embraced, everything Branan’s done has been great, but this is record of the year material.

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Lucero – Live From Atlanta

Liberty & Lament, 2014

How Lucero have never released a live album before now is a mystery to me. A band whose live shows are nothing short of legendary, I doubt most fans would care if all their material was recorded live. At 32 songs over two discs, at least they jumped in with both feet, giving fans a thorough run-through of classic bar-room country punk and tender balladry that occasionally retreats to R&B as the band include keys and horns. All your favorite Lucero songs are here and they sound great, making this both essential for fans and a good starting point for new ears.

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Shaver – Shaver’s Jewels (The Best Of Shaver)

New West, 2013

Comprised of outlaw country legend Billy Joe Shaver and his guitar playing son Eddy, here we’re treated to selections from the five albums they penned together that showcase their gritty country rock, sincere balladry and the guitar acrobatics of Eddy. A tribute to Eddy’s legacy after an untimely death in 2000, these songs touch on all the aspects of rustic, rowdy and soulful music that has eventually spawned into what we refer to as alt-country now. Shaver left an indelible mark during their time and this anthology leaves an equally lasting impression.

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Austin Lucas – Stay Reckless

New West, 2013

The punk guy gone country might be cliché at this point, though when it’s done as well as Austin Lucas it’s hard to not be enamoured. Lucas has a voice made for rustic, warm Americana and here he uses it to guide us through folk, classic rock, bluegrass and even some subtle nods to his punk days. With members of Lucero in his backing band Glossary, you know the music is top notch and the storytelling is sincere and honest, largely fueled by the dissolution of marriage. If you’ve never heard Lucas, this is as great a place to start as any and contains some of his strongest work.

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Lucero – Women & Work

Lucero - Women & WorkLoose, 2012

The most Memphis this band has ever sounded, the soul, blues, country and rock influences are more prominent than ever, and the horns brought in on the last record are highly utilised here. As per usual, there’s a good mix of upbeat bar rockers surrounded by quieter balladry, the calmer moments often reflecting on the ‘Women’ portion of the album title. Here Lucero prove they’re not merely a decent rock’n'roll band for a bunch of former punks, but are luminaries in their own right regardless of what scene they began in.

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Restorations – A/B EP

Restorations - ABTiny Engines, 2012

These guys just might be the best band that exists today. Song “A” is a rustic, warm and slightly distorted track that is trademark Restorations – gritty, raspy and full of unclassifiable musicianship. Side “B” is perhaps the strongest song they’ve penned. An upbeat rocker with reverb that builds into a driving, rowdy adventure with guitar solos and choruses you can’t help but shout along to. Very likely to be the best 10 minutes of your day.

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