ALECIA NUGENT—Hillbilly Goddess: Throughout Hillbilly Goddess, Alecia Nugent's performances betray one essential and irrevocable fact about the power source of her artistry: she's never strayed far from her country home, in a spiritual sense, and those deep roots keep her compass pointed true. It's an awesome thing to experience as a listener, even better to be able to live it every day.
CHRIS PANDOLFI—Looking Glasss: We're a little late in getting to Infamous Stringduster Chris Pandolfi's new collection of original instrumental tunes, but much warm weather remains and Looking Glass is a fantastic summer album to get hip to still. Let us clarify. Saying it is a summer album may mean, to some, a slow, laid-back, easygoing affair, evoking naps under shade trees and lazy, hazy carefree days passed far from the daily grind. Looking Glass, on the other hand, has the summery feel of an outpouring of energy and excitement at the prospect of being cut loose from the usual responsibilities, including hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock.
DARYLE SINGLETARY—Rockin' In the Country: You don't have to get too far into Daryle Singletary's impressive new album to figure out where he's coming from: the spitfire guitars, wailing harmonica and aggressive drumming do a real good job of bringing the title track to life, and Singletary does his part with a fine, textured baritone growl and purr in the style of one of his main influences, John Anderson. It gets better from there, as the track catches fire as it rushes forward, and suddenly—whoa!—there's Charlie Daniels strutting out on a fiery fiddle solo and even adding a punchy second vocal to the track, while exhorting Daryle to go for it. That's a good start to a long-awaited new album from one of country's finest, albeit still underrated, vocalists.
RUSSELL MOORE & IIIRD TYME OUT: Now in its 18th year and possessor of some 50 industry awards (including seven consecutive IBMA Vocal Group of the Year honors), Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out are not letting time, if you will, catch up to them. Why title an album with only the group name if the long player isn't meant as a statement of purpose, a declaration of identity, a signal of renewed commitment?