Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now: Bluegrass Edition

The editor of Engine145 recommends bluegrass, Americana, and country music.

By Juli Thanki

Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week, it’s Juli Thanki, editor of , a country, roots, and bluegrass blog. 


1. Eilen Jewell, Queen of the Minor Key

The Boston-based Jewell covers a variety of musical styles on her fourth album. From the fierce rockabilly of "Warning Signs" to "Only One," which sounds like a long-lost jazz standard, to the old-school country duet "Long Road" (with Big Sandy), the whole record is a keeper. My favorite track: "Bang Bang Bang," a sinister look at Cupid, who, in this song, wields a "sawed-off six gauge."

Listen: "Bang Bang Bang"



2. Chris Young, Neon

Young won Nashville Star a few years ago, but with his past three albums, he's proven that he's a lot more than a reality-show competitor. At a time when a lot of male singers on country radio are incorporating '80s rock or, on occasion, bad hip-hop into their music, Chris Young keeps it country, drawing on influences like Keith Whitley and neotraditionalists like Randy Travis and Alan Jackson.

Listen: "Neon"



3. Connie Smith, Long Line of Heartaches

It's been over four decades since Smith topped the charts with country classics like "Once a Day." She hasn't changed much over the years. On Long Line of Heartaches, her first album of new material since 1996 (and only her second since the late '70s), she's still sticking to her traditional country roots. Listen to a preview of the album here.

Listen: "Once a Day"



4. The Farewell Drifters, Echo Boom

With Beach Boys harmonies and Avett Brothers energy, The Farewell Drifters deliver infectious bluegrass-influenced acoustic music (and killer live shows, if they happen to come your way). Echo Boom, their sophomore album, is their most accessible release, and a must-listen for fans of progressive bluegrass acts like Sarah Jarosz or the now defunct Cadillac Sky. Their last record featured a sharp cover of The Beatles' "For No One." Here, they do a nice job on "The Only Living Boy in New York."

Listen: "We Go Together"



5. Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn, Singin' Again

Loretta Lynn's duets with Conway Twitty are better known, but I've always preferred Ernest Tubb as her singing partner. When Singin' Again, the second of their duets records, was released in 1967, Ernest Tubb was an elder statesman of country music, Lynn the rising star. The odd couple works well together. Check out "Sweet Thang," where Loretta warns potential man-stealers "Take my advice, if you blink more than twice, you better have something in your eye." It's not available on CD, but Singin' Again is worth hunting through a few record stores.

Listen: "Sweet Thang"




Commentarium (23 Comments)

Aug 23 11 - 8:33am

At least you got one bluegrass album in the "Bluegrass Edition".

Aug 26 11 - 2:52pm

Yeah, I prepared myself to be disappointed by the promise of bluegrass. And then I was.

Aug 26 11 - 2:56pm

Actually let me revise. I'm not a purist, but I still don't think ANY of this is bluegrass. However, the songs are pretty decent. Thanks Nerve!

Aug 23 11 - 12:54pm

Infamous Stringdusters! Saw them at OSL and they blew my mind. Check it out. Seriously.

Aug 23 11 - 8:22pm

If you dig the Infamous Stringdusters, check out their Festy.

Aug 23 11 - 1:53pm
What Fuckery Is This

Nobody should be listening to Chris Young. Ever. If American Idol and Garth Brooks make a baby, you butcher it with a shovel and bury it face-down at a crossroads. That's just common sense.

Aug 23 11 - 8:54pm

This comment makes me wish for a like button.

Aug 23 11 - 2:33pm

Two songs in the bluegrass edition that I like? Is this even bluegrass? How am I supposed to look cultured now?

Aug 23 11 - 5:51pm

bluegrass is a culture

Aug 23 11 - 8:09pm

Good for Nerve. Love Loretta. And my hairdresser just introduced me to Eilen Jewell. She's great.

Aug 23 11 - 8:12pm

And these Farewell Drifters people are lovely.

Aug 23 11 - 8:22pm

Check out Willy Lindner's album: Life, Still, With Mandolin. Now THAT'S a good bluegrass album

Aug 23 11 - 8:33pm
stfu it's me

Wow Nerve. Just because it has a southern accent doesn't mean it's bluegrass. Nothing here is bluegrass. And to put that Bostonian on this list as bluegrass made me barf up my dinner. FOR SHAME, Nerve.

Aug 23 11 - 10:03pm

To say someone can't be bluegrass because of where they live? That's just dumb.

Aug 23 11 - 9:37pm

Most of this is not bluegrass at all!! False advertising, nerve!

Aug 24 11 - 2:01am
Insatiable Dragon

So call is "Americana." GREAT move putting the incomparable Eilen Jewell at Number 1. Queen of the Minor Key is in heavy rotation at my house. She is just in a class by herself.

Aug 24 11 - 8:02am

They're not traditional but I'm a big fan of Trampled by Turtles out of Duluth, MN. They play fast and loud.

Aug 24 11 - 3:15pm

Is it weird for a band of (American) white guys to have lyrics like these?

"Say/won't you say how to make thing things right/I've got the heart of a slave/and I just can't fight."

Because The Farewell Drifters do. And they have nothing to do with bluegrass.

Aug 26 11 - 10:54am

See comments below and open up your mind a little eh?

Aug 26 11 - 10:52am

Really? You are going to make a harmless metaphoric lyric racist? What an idiot. Since you are uninformed, let me enlighten you. Slavery went on for centuries among all colors and creeds long before the Civil War era.

Like other genres of music, Bluegrass has taken on many forms and variations, one of which happens to be quite popular these days, it's called Newgrass. Open your mind....geez.

Aug 26 11 - 2:59pm

None of this is newgrass, which is a genre that's been around for decades fwiw.

Aug 26 11 - 8:22pm

Hmm, not impressed with this list at all. I suggest you check out the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Aug 29 11 - 11:11pm

Right on-this helped me sort tnhigs right out.