Articles By: Kyle McCraw

Little Rock, AR I grew up listening to a lot of country music with my parents, but part of my rebellion was musical. After spending a lot of time in hard rock, metal, rap, indie rock, jazz and even an obsession with early-mid 70’s Stevie Wonder, I made my way back to country. Really there were always artists like Bill Mallonee and Neil Young that I was listening to in the interim, but it took a while to get back to guys like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Lefty Frizzell. Today, my interests are primarily in the roots/americana/country/southern rock area of things, but that doesn't mean I don't listen to anything else.

Billy Joe Shaver – Long in the Tooth

Billy Joe Shaver – Long in the Tooth

I’m always excited about a new Billy Joe Shaver album – especially one with almost all new songs (“The Git Go” first appeared in 2012 on “Live at Billy Bob’s.”). This one even kicks off with a duet with Willie Nelson on “It’s Hard to be an Outlaw,” an enjoyable tune that sets up the […]

Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder

Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder

Cory Branan is a hard guy to peg, but he seems aware of that fact. His sound mixes enough influences that he called his last album, “Mutt.” While “Mutt” did showcase some strong songwriting, it simply didn’t cohere perfectly as an album. “The No-Hit Wonder” is a different beast. While there are still plenty of the […]

Jason Isbell – “Southeastern”

Jason Isbell – “Southeastern”

Jason Isbell has seen some major changes in his life in the last couple of years — chief among them marriage and sobriety.  If anything, those changes have been positive for Isbell as a songwriter.  Listening to  “Southeastern,”  Guy Clark repeatedly comes to mind in terms of Isbell’s handle on the power of a lyric […]

Cory Branan: Live and Direct

Cory Branan: Live and Direct

I was fortunate enough to catch a show Cory Branan at White Water Tavern in Little Rock, AR not too long after the release of his current record, “Mutt” (It’s his first on Bloodshot Records.).  Like, “Mutt,” the show was full of great moments but a little difficult to sum up.  Branan is just not […]

Alabama Shakes – “Boys & Girls” – (ATO)

Alabama Shakes – “Boys & Girls” – (ATO)

“Retro Soul” was a label that got thrown around a lot after Alabama Shakes’ 2011 EP (of which all three songs are included in this album).  Listening to those songs, it’s understandable, but with Boys & Girls, the band makes it clear that while there are plenty of influences (blues, soul, etc.), it’s all filtered […]

Justin Townes Earle “Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel about Me Now” – (Bloodshot)

Justin Townes Earle “Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel about Me Now” – (Bloodshot)

In the midst of strong reviews of his last album, Harlem River Blues, Justin Townes Earle made the kind of splash he undoubtedly did not want to make.  For various reasons, Earle entered re-hab (again) for drug addiction.  I mention this mainly as a reference point for the songwriting on the album.  While there are […]

Billy Joe Shaver, an interview

Billy Joe Shaver, an interview

Maybe I’m a little jaded, but there aren’t too many  people I’d get excited about meeting.  Billy Joe Shaver is an exception.  He’s a writer that proves less is more which meant a lot when my dad showed me “Tramp on Your Street” while I was in college.  Surrounded by people trying to use big […]

Slaid Cleaves “Sorrow and Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge” Music Road

Slaid Cleaves “Sorrow and Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge” Music Road

Slaid Cleaves may not be a natural-born Texan (He’s originally from Portland, Maine. He has been in Texas for 20 years, though.), but he knows a thing or two about a thing or two.  For starters, he knows about songwriting, and he shows it off here with a 2 disc set of his “greatest hits” […]

Guy Clark “Songs and Stories” Dualtone

Guy Clark “Songs and Stories” Dualtone

The first thing I noticed looking at the cover art for “Songs and Stories”  was on the inner part of the gatefold.  There are three photos — one of Guy Clark and one each of Verlon Thompson and Shawn Camp, who are both good friends and long-time collaborators of Clark’s. Perhaps the most interesting thing […]

The Wood Brothers “Smoke Ring Halo” (Southern Ground)

The Wood Brothers “Smoke Ring Halo” (Southern Ground)

Just like good Southern cooking, sometimes the most important ingredient is time.  For The Wood Brothers, part of it’s the time they spent growing up together.  Part of it’s the time they spent apart — Oliver fronting the blues-based band King Johnson and Chris as bassist for Jazz-funk trio Medeski, Martin & Wood.   Their collective […]

The Band of Heathens “Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son” BOH Records

The Band of Heathens “Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son” BOH Records

On their newest album, “Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son,”  The Band of Heathens continue to refine their kitchen sink approach to southern music.  Combining elements of rock, country, soul, blues, funk, gospel, and whatever else that might come up in the process and with whatever instruments deemed appropriate (lapsteel, resonator guitars, piano, organ, […]

Album Review: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – “Here We Rest” (Lightning Rod)

Album Review: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – “Here We Rest” (Lightning Rod)

Jason Isbell‘s solo debut, “Sirens of the Ditch,”  was a record that was four years in the making, recorded when Isbell’s schedule with Drive-by Truckers would allow, and it did feel like a bit more of a patchwork than Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s eponymous 2009 release, all of which was recorded with just […]

Album Review: J. Shogren “Birds Bones & Muscle” JAHA!

Album Review: J. Shogren “Birds Bones & Muscle” JAHA!

Sounding like some weird-ass acoustic version of Southern Culture on the Skids, “Birds Bones & Muscle” busts out of the gates, front loaded with three great songs, and while the album may be a little uneven, it’s hard to deny its best cuts.  “Pulp Americana” is what Shrogen calls it, and according to his website […]

Album Review: Nathan McEuen “Scrapbook Sessions 2010” Lint

Album Review: Nathan McEuen “Scrapbook Sessions 2010” Lint

If the last name sounds familiar, it should.  Nathan McEuen is the son of John McEuen, one of the founding members of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – who also appears on the song, “Banjormous.”  Nathan, like his father, takes an eclectic approach to his music, drawing on rock, pop, and country – even a little […]