Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I know I ask a lot of rhetorical questions in my reviews but indulge me for one more. Why is Amelia White not a household name? After you listen to Rhythm Of The Rain in its entirety, I am certain you will draw the same conclusion I do. The writing and music are among the tops. And production and mixing is a 10 out of 10. I never realized how important those things are until I started listening with a critical ear.

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Written by William Tokash (@TwangChicago) 
My Love/Hate relationship with Spotify oscillated back toward Love as the end of the year came along. The Love part is grounded in my ability to find and sample an extraordinary amount of new music that satisfies my “fresh water through a shark’s gills” need to find new artists. The Hate part is derived from my view of Spotify as a platform that enables a modern day “musician’s sharecropper” business model given the paltry and unequal royalty payout schemes they employ.

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Another very strong release from this husband & wife duo that hails from Florida. The reason that geographic location is noteworthy because of the mood the music evokes. Swampy, heated, and channels the heart and soul of the blues. Their timing is impeccable, as they maintain the symmetry by releasing an album every two to three years. Drive Till U Die was their 2016 release which seemed to really pave the way for Pop-N-Downers. I was trying to listen to both releases to see if there were any noteworthy departures from one release to the next. What I discovered is that Drive Till U Die is the bridge that allowed Hymn For Her to be in the creative position to release Pop-N-Downers. 

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Reviewed by William Tokash
@TwangChicago
Jesse Daniel’s 2018 eponymous release on his Die True Records label is a rollicking, thoughtful, melody-and-hook laden gem of a record that mostly belies an explicit accounting of the personal challenges that Jesse has overcome. But maybe the name of his record label gives a hint. Jeff Tweedy famously highlighted in his lyrics to Wilco’s War on War release in 2002, “You have to learn how to die, if you want to want to be alive.” This album feels more like a rebirth, a fresh start filled with acceptance and optimism coupled with matter-of-fact lyrical expression of life’s basic travails that portends a bright songwriting future for the Santa Cruz, California-based artist.

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Hot damn! Just what the doctor ordered. This is serious outlaw, honky tonk, hell raisin’ music. And it should be played loud. All I know is that when I hear that pedal steel, it gets the blood flowing. And there is plenty of steel on Smokin, Drinkin, & Gamblin. Yes, it is very much 1977. That is the golden age of outlaw so ’77 is a good year to target. Craig has that perfect country voice with a bit of twang and a very strong set of pipes. 

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This came out in January so I am a little late. But this album is so good that it needs to be heard. This is true classic country both in musical stylings as well as the song topics. This is true tear in your beer country. With song titles like Bar Fight, Bullies Win Again, Frail Shadow, End Of The World, etc., you know this is going to be a multi tissue listen. Maybe I like tragic stories or maybe misery loves company, I don’t know. What I do know is this, I Want To Believe is absolutely irresistible. 

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This gets a WOW right up front. Just stunning song arrangement, writing, musicianship, etc. But then again, we are talking about Paul Kelly. He is the Australian equivalent to Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen. Nature is Paul’s 24th studio album and it is a true game changer. I will get back to that shortly. 

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Very solid third offering from The Nouveaux Honkies. This is a difficult release to classify since they really cover so many different styles from classic country, folk, rockabilly, and rock and roll. The Nouveaux Honkies are comprised of Rebecca Dawkins on violin and vocals and Tim O’Donnell on guitar and vocals. Vocals are certainly their strong suit. Not to say that the other elements are not good, because they are. But what really sets this band apart from the other man/woman duos are the strength and beauty of the vocals. The duo has become smitten with the Smokey Mountains and made Knoxville, TN their home base about two years ago. 

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This is the first time I have been to the new Union Craft digs and let me say, I am impressed. The venue itself is very industrial and has a nostalgic feel to it. All that metal and austerity is tempered by the positive energy inside. Even with all the cold steel and concrete, the venue is warm and inviting. The staff couldn’t be more accommodating and the patrons all seemed to be quite friendly.  

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Reviewed by Bill Tokash
Appalachian artist Tyler Childers is an “overnight sensation” eight years in the making. In 2018, during his “emergence”, he’s played both the Grand Ole Opry and Lollapalooza and had his name mis-pronounced while being named the Americana Music Association’s 2018 “Emerging” Artist. He even recently played with legendary songwriter John Prine on Austin City Limits. His recent take (paraphrased) that he wasn’t quite sure how all this came about, but that it may be best described as someone leaving the back door open while he snuck into your living room seems half accurate.

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