Bluegrass in the Basement host, Nicole Harvey counts down the best (mostly) bluegrass releases of 2016.
10. Dustbowl Revival- Busted, October 14, 2016 (Signature Sounds)
Dustbowl Revival gave listeners a taste of their forthcoming album, due in the spring of 2017, by releasing 2 tracks from the album as a limited edition 7-inch and digitally. The album was produced by Grammy award-winner, Ted Hutt (also a Flogging Molly co-founder). These two tracks delve deeper into soul and funk, but they still managed to make it to this list.
9. Fruition- Labor of Love, April 22, 2016 (Randm Records)
This Oregon quintet got their start busking on the streets, but in recent years, they’ve moved on to the festival scene as well as stops at iconic venues such as Red Rocks. The latest album from Fruition features some compelling guests, including Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass and Jeremy Garrett of The Infamous Stringdusters. ‘Labor of Love’ showcases a more sophisticated, but still familiar sound.
8. Sarah Jarosz- Undercurrent, June 17, 2016 (Rounder)
Undercurrent is Sarah Jarosz’s follow up to her 2013 Grammy-nominated album, Build Me Up From Bones. In a departure from her more experimental previous album, Jarosz presents a more intimate selection of songs. 4 of the tracks are just Jarosz and her guitar and on most of the others, only an upright bass and a guitar accompany her.
7. Del McCoury Band- Del & Woody, April 15, 2016 (McCoury Music)
All of the songs on this album were written by the late Woody Guthrie and curated by his daughter Nora. She has selected a few artists in recent years to record her father’s work, and after hearing The Del McCoury Band perform some of Guthrie’s songs at a concert, she knew the pairing would work. Guthrie’s lyrics, along with McCoury’s compositions create this treasure.
6. Infamous Stringdusters- Ladies & Gentlemen, February 5, 2016 (Compass)
In a departure from their previous albums, the men of Infamous Stringdusters only bring instrumentation, rather than vocals, to this album. The title, Ladies & Gentlemen, is very fitting, though, as twelve female roots singers fronted the vocals on each track. (With exception of last, instrumental track “Hazosphere”, featuring dumpeter Jennifer Hardwick). The female vocalists include Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, Nicki Bluhm, Aofie O’Donovan, Abigail Washburn and more.
5. Sierra Hull- Weighted Mind, January 29, 2016 (Rounder)
As a young mandolin prodigy, Sierra Hull was signed to Rounder at only 13 years old and released her first album at 16 years old. Now she is 25 and this is her 4th album. Bela Fleck produced the record and it features appearances by Rhiannon Giddens, Alison Krauss, and Abigail Washburn.
4. Greensky Bluegrass- Shouted, Written Down & Quoted, September 23, 2016 (Big Blue Zoo Records)
This album comes almost exactly two years after Greensky Bluegrass’ very successful album, If Sorrows Swim. They set the bar high in 2014 and this album does not disappoint. The Michigan jamgrass band plays as many as 175 shows a year, but managed to find time to release this great, high energy album.
3. Sam Bush- Storyman, June 24, 2016 (Sugar Hill)
This is Bush’s first solo album in seven years. He collaborated on many of the songs with longtime friends including Guy Clark, Jon Randall Stewart and Emmylou Harris. Alison Krauss also appears on the track, ‘Lefty’s Song.’ I think it was worth the wait.
2. Hurray for the Riff Raff- Rican Beach, December 7, 2016 (ATO Records) - first single off The Navigator, to be released on March 10, 2017
This is the first release from HFTRR since 2014’s Small Town Heroes. Rican Beach is about a fictional city that has been extremely gentrified and militarized. Lead singer, Alynda Segarra dedicated the song to protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota as well as in Puerto Rico- two areas where safe water is being contaminated. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album. If you live in NOLA, you can see them live at the Civic Theater on Friday, May 5
1. Elephant Revival- Petals, April 1, 2016 (Itz Evolving)
Petals is the 4th LP from Elephant Revival, the transcendental folk band from Nederland, CO. It’s also their first without founding member, Sage Cook. Charlie Rose stepped in to take Cook’s place and brings a new instrument to the band: the Pedal Steel. The members in Elephant Revival all take part in their songwriting and find inspiration in unique places (playgrounds, tunnels, rivers, etc). I would have a hard time not liking something they put out, and this album does not disappoint.