1. Lindi Ortega- Cigarettes & Truck Stops- Even though this isn't out yet for a month (October 2nd to be exact), it lands on our list of favorite things this month due to an amazing combination of blues and country. If Elvis, Gary Allen and BB King shared adoption of a musically inclined kid, Lindi Ortega would be it. The album was reportedly inspired by a biography of Hank Williams in which Ortega discovered Williams' mentor Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne, the street performer who taught Williams to play guitar. This sparked Ortega’s interest in the influence of blues on early country—a fascination that comes through strongly on the record. Her ethereal voice is highlighted with some unique vocal production and the album includes two phenomenal tracks in "Murder of Crows" and "Demos Don't Get Me Down."
2. Love & Theft- "Town Drunk"- It would be easy to dismiss the latest album from Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson as simple boy band fodder. Those that would might not know about their accomplished songwriting chops, with Liles having numerous other cuts on artist albums including the likes of Martina McBride. Overall, the album has some really nice moments on it before missing on a couple of party-oriented songs at the end of the project. But none have the emotion and teeth that are shown on this sentimental and melancholy little love story called "Town Drunk." It's a strong statement piece on an album that should establish the duo as a permanent piece to the Nashville music establishment.
3. Waylon Jennings- Goin' Down Rockin'- The Last Recordings- Posthumous albums can be hit or miss things. The Johnny Cash albums released after his death, while fragile emotional powerhouses, showcase a frail and weak Cash that many find off-putting. (This reviewer does not necessarily share that some viewpoint by the way.) During his last years of life, Jennings recorded several tracks along with his bassist Robby Turner. The recordings consisted on twelve songs that Jennings considered that expressed his feelings and reflections at the time. Featuring vocals and guitar playing by Jennings, with the accompaniment of Turner on the bass, further instrumentation was planned to be added, but the project was stopped when Jennings died in 2002. Ten years later, Turner gathered along with Reggie Young, Richie Albright and Tony Joe White, members of Jennings' band, The Waylors, to complete the tracks. It's as if Jennings is alive again. Despite some serious health issues going on a the time, he sounds strong, independent and uniquely rebellious Waylon. His recovered track "I Do Believe" is a transcendent track that works before and after his death, with him contemplating the meaning of life and death. It's one of the best tracks of the year. Being as it's sung by one of country's all-time best legends well after we thought we'd heard the last of him, it's a gift for the ages. When he sings about "Goin' Down Rockin'," it's proof he did just that.
4. Sarah Darling- "Home To Me"
With a little critical acclaim and little commercial airplay support, Darling has released this, her first single off of her upcoming third album on Black River Entertainment. She's shown a great affinity for writing touching and meaningful songs off of her first two albums and this track extends that streak. Here's hoping that the third time's the charm for this young beauty.