Autumn is harvest time in many areas of the country, as farmers bring in pumpkins, apples and corn. This year there’s also a bumper crop of promising new Americana albums, including releases by a couple of roots legends and some young guitar hotshots. Here are 10 albums arriving after Labor Day weekend that we can’t wait to hear.
Ryan Adams, Ryan Adams (Sept. 9)
It’s been three years since Ryan Adams unleashed his prior album, Ashes & Fire. That’s an eternity for the notoriously prolific artist, who typically crowds the calendar with releases both serious (Easy Tiger) and silly (anything from his short-lived hardcore band the Finger). Adams was slowed somewhat by Ménière’s disease, a degenerative illness that afflicts the inner ear. If lead single “Gimme Something Good” is any indication, his penchant for classic-rock hooks and wounded vocals has not been affected in the least.
The Earls of Leicester, The Earls of Leicester (Sept. 16)
The Earls of Leicester (pronounced “Lester”) are like the bluegrass Avengers: a supergroup of master pickers, pluckers, strummers and singers. The resourceful group includes Jerry Douglas (Dobro), Charlie Cushman (banjo), Shawn Camp (vocals/guitar), Tim O’ Brien (everything), Johnny Warren (fiddle) and Barry Bales (bass). They’ve banded together to salute Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs with 14 lively covers of the duo’s classics, including “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down,” “Shuckin’ the Corn” and “Dig a Hole in the Meadow.”
Steelism, 615 to FAME (Sept. 16)
Separately and together, pedal steel player Spencer Cullum Jr. and guitarist Jeremy Fetzer have backed a who’s who of leftfield Nashville artists, such as Caitlin Rose and Jonny Fritz (nee Corndawg). On 615 to FAME, however, the duo take center stage as Steelism, blending the stately country instrumentals of the Nashville Sound era with the rollicking surf-classical compositions of Jack Nitzsche. They recorded their debut album at studios in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, hence the title.
Mac Wiseman, Songs From My Mother’s Hand (Sept. 23)
At 89 years old, bluegrass legend and 2014 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Mac Wiseman has recorded more than 65 albums and 800 songs in his long career, but Songs From My Mother’s Hand may be the closest to his heart. When he was a child in rural Virginia, his mother would transcribe lyrics from the songs she heard on the radio, eventually amassing several notebooks’ worth of material for her son. Wiseman learned to play and sing along to her handwritten lyrics for “The Wreck of the Number Nine” and “Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown,” among many others.
Lee Ann Womack, The Way I’m Livin’ (Sept. 23)
Thanks largely to her 2000 crossover hit “I Hope You Dance,” Lee Ann Womack could be seen as a pop-country princess. But after the song became a staple of graduation speeches and wedding dances, she reinvented herself as a left-of-center chanteuse. Her first album in six years, The Way I’m Livin’ emphasizes her interpretive skills as she covers songs by Hayes Carll (“Chances Are”), Buddy Miller (“Don’t Listen to the Wind”), Roger Miller (“Tomorrow Night in Baltimore”) and Neil Young (“Out on the Weekend”).
Sons of Bill, Love & Logic (Sept. 30)
It’s not just a clever band name: Three members of the Charlottesville, Virginia, band Sons of Bill are offspring of William Wilson, a musician and professor emeritus of theology and literature. The brothers apply their father’s lessons to their fourth album, Love & Logic, which includes songs about the New and Old Souths, Faulkner, fishing, dancing and listening to Big Star. They strive to recapture some of the grandeur of ‘90s alt-country, even hiring Ken Coomer, of Uncle Tupelo/Wilco fame, to produce.
Lucinda Williams, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Sept. 30)
Once upon a time, we had to wait nearly a decade for Lucinda Williams to release a new album, but lately she’s grown more and more prolific. Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone comes three short years after Blessed. It’s also a double album, a first for her: 20 exquisite tunes by one of the country’s most admired songwriters. The first disc kicks off with “Compassion,” an adaptation of a poem by her father, celebrated poet Miller Williams. The second includes a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia.”
Luke Winslow-King, Everlasting Arms (Sept. 30)
Upon the release of The Rising Tide in 2012, New Orleans-via-Michigan singer-songwriter Luke Winslow-King stayed on the road almost constantly, mastering old songs and writing new ones. The result of his road-warrior streak is Everlasting Arms, which features vocals by his singing partner/wife Esther Rose and music by his tour-tested band. On these 14 songs, Winslow-King shows an even more imaginative grasp of Dixieland jazz, Big Easy country-gospel and levee blues.
Shakey Graves, And the War Came (Oct. 7)
The banks don’t close for Shakey Graves Day in Austin, Texas, but what other artist on this list has an actual holiday named after them? The city has been toasting its favorite son for three years now, roughly since Graves (a.k.a. Alejandro Rose-Garcia) self-released his debut album, Roll the Bones. His long-awaited follow-up, And the War Came, ought to have people celebrating well beyond the Austin city limits, as it features more of his heart-on-sleeve vocals, evocative lyrics and duets with Esme Patterson.
Angaleena Presley, American Middle Class (Oct. 14)
No one can accuse Angaleena Presley (a.k.a. Holler Annie of the Pistol Annies) of not going all out on her solo debut. She wrote or co-wrote all of the dozen tunes on American Middle Class, which is less an album than a musical autobiography. Each song visits a different chapter in her life, starting in the small town of Beauty, Kentucky, and ending up in Nashville. Her father appears on the opening track, her neighbor reads scripture on another song and Patty Loveless, Chris Stapleton and Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers all sing along.