Allison Russell by Dana Trippe

Best Country Album Release Round-Up: September 4-8

September 18, 2023 9:58 am GMT

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This week, we have the return of a wondrous spirit in Allison Russell, the much anticipated new Ashley McBryde project, as well as new records from cult heroes Nick Shoulders and Logan Ledger. We're also delving into the new releases from midwest group Shannon Clark & the Sugar and one of Holler's new favourites, Drayton Farley.Last but certainly not least, we've also got the matter of a huge release from Tyler Childers too.It's another busy release week, so let's delve in. Here's Holler's round-up of the new country album releases for this week:

Allison Russell - The Returner

Allison Russell follows up her widely adored Outside Child with an album of joyful defiance and a battle call for cultural, political and environmental survival.

The Returner takes in everything from 60s girl group pop to slamming 70s George Clinton-esque avant-funk, gospel and the jazzy, meticulous melodies of Miles Davis.

Written and co-produced by Russell along with Dim Star (her partner JT Nero and his brother Drew Lindsay), The Returner features an astounding all-female musical collective she dubbed “The Rainbow Coalition”, and it amplifies that the key to everything Allison Russell does is freedom. Her songs begin and end whenever she wants, fragmented or extended out into giant symphonic choral mantras. The result is something that sounds like a wild otherworldly cross between Beyoncé and Laura Nyro.

The Returner is a truly astonishing record. Melodically intricate, carefully performed and thematically overwhelming - encompassing Black liberation, Black love, Black self-respect, life, death, love and politics - it’s the kind of record that only comes around once in every generation. If Millie Jackson had climbed into the sandpit and made a record with Brian Wilson in the early 70s it might sound something like The Returner.

Mind-blowingly magnificent.

Ashley McBryde - The Devil I Know

Once again weaving together country ditties, rock-tinged rompers and biker-bar riffs, with The Devil I Know, Ashley McBryde has plotted out an all-encompassing journey.

The record features arena-sized regrets, a couple of classic country odes and a few bouts of bold and visceral vulnerability, most notably on the soberingly autobiographical ‘Learned to Lie'.

Along the way, McBryde shares plenty of lessons learned through ‘Coldest Beer in Town’, ‘6th of October’ and the evocative ‘Light On in the Kitchen’, serving almost like a roadmap to avoid some of life’s detours, or at the least, showing us how to enjoy the view. The latter in particular feels like the warmest hug in modern country music, signaling just how much McBryde has grown as an artist in these last seven years.

McBryde opens the album by explaining that you have to be ‘Made For This’. In just under 40 minutes, she yet again proves that she is.

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Review By: Lydia Farthing

Drayton Farley - Kudzu Wild

Birmingham, AL native Drayton Farley is solidifying his position as a promising up-and-coming songwriter with his vulnerable new EP, Kudzu Wild.

Recorded in a hotel room while on tour, Farley gets back to his roots with what made him a stand-out artist in the first place. The songs on this EP feel familiar, with the grit and rasp of Farley’s voice walking you through love, loss, and introspection.

They are stories you were once told and remember half-way through the retelling, or confessions of people you’ve never met but know all too well.

Kudzu Wild leaves you with the same wanting of many EPs, ending strongly with our personal favorite ‘Evergreen Eyes’. Though easily consumable, this five-track offering deserves to be steeped in, offering something new with each listen.

Rating: 6 / 10

Review By: Lydia Farthing

Logan Ledger - Golden State

A step away from the country noir of his debut – though still occasionally echoing the same brooding energy – Logan Ledger indulges in wistful, California-dreaming countrypolitan on Golden State.

The 10 songs on this set traverse 60s pop, R&B and Laurel Canyon-reminiscent cosmic country with unique and decided flair. Ledger’s baritone evokes the croons of Glen Campbell or Roy Orbison, as it winds its way through topics of lost love, existential weariness and finding one’s place. Though his lyrics may often be simple in their statement, they’re delivered with a welcome, unpretentious poeticism.

Some moments drift into a slight sense of lethargy, but overall, Golden State - in particular standouts like ‘All the Wine in California’ and ‘Obviously’ - captures Ledger at his sharpest, sheened only further by the trusty production of Shooter Jennings.

Rating: 7/10

Review by: Laura Ord

Nick Shoulders - All Bad

Combative feelings form the beating heart of All Bad, Nick Shoulders' fourth full-length.

He's both exasperated by the state of the world but thankful for the environment which he calls home; fatigued by our dependency on phones and interstates being built across every tuft of green land, he is still grateful he didn't burn the toast, even if he couldn't save a relationship gone cold.

Shoulders' poetic yarn can at times leave these harsh truths tangled, but it's the exasperated sigh he exhales throughout that weighs heavy and loudest of all.

Where the album does feels prolonged in places, its pleasant, encompassing musicianship and Shoulders' knack for an exuberant melody goes some way in justifying a lack of variety. While he's adamant in pointing out the shit in the world, he's determined to offer some element of levity. After all, it's not all bad.

Rating: 6/10

Review by: Ross Jones

Shannon Clark and The Sugar - This Old World

Shannon Clark and the Sugar's This Old World feels as though its edges have been sanded down and any flickering embers of intensity thoroughly extinguished. This makes for a mellow, soothing listen, embodied by the likes of ‘Cool Waters’ and ‘Burn Down’. However, too often this descends from tranquillity into listlessness, and the listener is left wishing for a little more oomph.

The title-track epitomises this. The philosophical song, which touches on issues ranging from school shootings to mental health, attempts to break through the ceiling of placidity into a freeing, jubilant tribute to overcoming hardship. Frustratingly, although an enjoyable listen, this song - and the album as a whole - never quite lands the emotional sucker-punch the listener is waiting for.

Rating: 4.5 /10

Review by: Maxim Mower

Tyler Childers - Rustin' In The Rain

Throughout the album, Childers continues to capture the complexities of rural life as he’s always done, carefully molding each narrative with his calloused hands and knowing heart. However, this time around, Childers seems to have shed his role of the deep holler prophet in favor of a more relaxed observer.

Overall, Rustin’ In The Rain is another stellar offering; not because it grapples with one singularly profound belief, but because it simply serves up a thoroughly satisfying tunes about hard living, harder loving and Percheron mules.

Rating: 9 /10

Review by: Alli Patton

Read Alli Patton's full review of Tyler Childers' Rustin In The Rain here.

For more information and dates of all country albums being released in 2023, see below:

Written by Ross Jones