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bluegrass Archives - County Tracks
Dec 232021
 
best vermont albums of 2021
20. Narrow Shoulders – Now Be Here

Spare and haunting, the debut release from Narrow Shoulders’ Zach Pollakoff does a lot with a little. Ambient noise, synth tones, the occasional pluck of guitar string, or a simple drum beat get layered just so to create an immersive instrumental world. The fact that Pollakoff works for A-list pop producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Vampire Weekend, etc) in his day job is no surprise. Though the genres couldn’t be more different, Pollakoff clearly knows to to construct a soundscape.

19. Jack O’ the Clock – Leaving California


The only progressive rock I have much use for is Jethro Tull and Jack O’ the Clock’s new record scratches that folksy itch nicely (the band name even evokes a Tull song). No, there’s no flute solos, but a whole host of other instruments make appearances, from violin to harp to sudden bursts of choir – and that’s just in one track! Then the next song opens with a clarinet solo. It’s not a flute, but close enough. Continue reading »

The Best Vermont Albums of 2020

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Dec 182020
 
best vermont albums

In the endless year-end debate about to rank or not-to-rank, I generally fall on the to-rank side. Putting some albums on and not others is already subjective, so why not go full bore? But I do find that things get increasingly arbitrary the further down the list you go. There is a difference in my mind between #2 and #3. But between #22 and #23? No, not really.

So this year I’m wimping out and doing a compromise: 30 albums, #11-30 unranked, and then the ranked Top Ten at the bottom. A method sure to satisfy no one! Seems appropriate for 2020. Continue reading »

The Best Vermont Songs of Summer 2020

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Sep 012020
 
songs of summer 2020

We’re back! After a summer away on paternity leave (can a blog take paternity leave? well, we did), County Tracks returns with a supersized roundup of everything that went on while we were away.

This is, as always, “we” in the proverbial sense. It’s really just me, Ray Padgett. And I have my second book out this week! It’s about music, of course. Specifically the history of tribute albums, as told through the fascinating story of one in particular (1991’s I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen – which, even if you don’t realize it, is the reason you know the song “Hallelujah”). It’s in the great 33 1/3 series of small books on specific albums. Hope you’ll check it out! Preorder links and more info over here.

Now, onto the music…

Abby Sherman Band – The Road


“The Road” is the first song on Bandcamp that Vermont singer-songwriter Abby Sherman has billed as being by the “Abby Sherman Band.” A minuscule rebranding, but one that feels significant. Whereas her best song last year was a stripped-down dirge, “The Road” features a muscular alt-country backing group giving her melody some heft. Special props to whoever played the country-Mark-Knopfler guitar solo. Continue reading »

Jimmy Cliff, Los Lobos, & Miranda Lambert Get Bluegrass-ed

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May 162017
 

The Bluegrass Gospel Project has been playing around Vermont for 16 years, over time becoming a lot more bluegrass than they are gospel. On their new and final album Delivered, they dig deep into their secular repertoire for some surprising covers.

Some of the songs’ origins won’t surprise anyone who listens to roots music: The Steeldrivers, Patty Griffin, Buddy and Julie Miller. But on others, they reach a little further outside the standard bluegrass repertoire.

Recorded live, Delivered dips deep into the well of country music – and not old-time country that would appease any bluegrass fan, but modern, Nashville-slick country from Miranda Lambert (“Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go”) and Alan Jackson (a gorgeous a cappella “Precious Memories”). They cover Los Lobos’ “Down On the Riverbed,” which in their hands sounds like a folk standard passed down for generations. Best of all is a revelatory bluegrass take on Jimmy Cliff’s iconic “Many Rivers to Cross,” which singer Colby Crehan imbues with a world of heartache. Continue reading »