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River Review Archives

Review of The Coffee Shop Chronicles : Part 2

Review of: David Lummis

The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans, Part 2: The Last Beaucoeur by David Lummis takes place on a single day, Friday August 26, read more...

Where It Hits You

Review of: Jim White

(Yep Roc) Jim White is an interesting character. Born in Pensacola, Florida, as Michael Davis Pratt during 1957, he grew up listening to gospel music. White's debut album Wrong-Eyed Jesus! came out in 1997. He's collaborated with Victoria Williams, Aimee read more...

The Last of the Pascagoula: A Review

Review of: Rebecca Meredith

Rebecca Meredith's first published novel The Last of the Pascagoula read more...

Wolfroy Goes To Town

Review of: Bonnie "Prince" Billy

(Drag City) Kentuckian Will Oldham remains a fearless and prolific southern artist.  Most will see the release of Wolfroy Goes To Town as the latest fine release amongst the over 50 LPs, EPs, and collarboration recordings Oldham has released in his nearly 20 read more...

Vertically Coastal by Jerri Chaplin---A Review

Review of: Jerri Chaplin

I met Jerri Chaplin fifteen years ago at a conference for the National Association of Poetry Therapy. I was struck at that time by her warmth and genuineness and read more...

Not So Loud

Review of: The Bottle Rockets

(Bloodshot Records) Not So Loud, the Bottle Rockets new acoustic live album, begins with the song "Early In The Morning" which not so coincidentally is the first song on their debut, self-titled album.  It is not a coincidence because Not So read more...

The Ballad of Little River

Review of: Paul Hemphill

(The University of Alabama Press) The Ballad of Little River: A Tale of Race and Unrest in the Rural South revolves around church arson in Little River, Alabama. In 1997, Little River, Alabama, emerged as the site of the U.S. government's first conviction under a read more...

Woman To Woman

Review of: Shirley Brown

(Concord Music Group) Born during 1947, in West Memphis, Arkansas, Shirley Brown's first single--"Woman To Woman"--sold a million copies in eight weeks. The Concord Music Group reissues this classic soul album with bonus tracks on September 13. Brown read more...

Drifting Into Darien

Review of: Janisse Ray

(The University of Georgia Press) "I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable and, to the citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter a swamp as a sacred place,--a sanctum sanctorium. There is the strength, the marrow, of nature."

Moving On

Review of: Lauderdale

(This Is American Music) Lauderdale hails from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The group formed in 2005. Moving On counts as Lauderdale's debut album. Band members include Niles Lee (vocals/guitar), Patrick read more...

Country Again

Review of: Ronnie Milsap

Ronnie Milsap became famous as a country singer.  He's won six Grammys and had 40 number one country songs, third all time to only George Strait and Conway Twitty.  Considering all of these accolades, it might be a bit of mystery to many as to why he would name his latest read more...

Premium Country

Review of: David Adam Byrnes

(Better Angels) It used to be that country radio didn't split between its roots and its desire to keep soccer moms happy.  A pop tune with a pedal steel is still a pop tune - just ask the Carpenters.  These days we can often forget we are listening to a country read more...

The Man That Time Forgot

Review of: John Paul Keith

(Big Legal Mess) Imagine that Buddy Holly didn't die in a plane crash in Iowa, but instead landed safely in Memphis where he spent the next few decades immersing himself in all kinds of music from read more...

This Is Indian Land

Review of: Cody Canada & The Departed

(Apex Nashville/Underground Sound) Oklahoma has long been a western-edge feeder system for country music.  Woody Guthrie is a native son.  Bob Wills established his career there. read more...

Field Songs

Review of: William Elliott Whitmore

(Anti) Field Songs count as William Elliott Whitmore's seventh studio album, and his second for Anti, which makes him label mates with Tom Waits. Whitmore described Field Songs as "a read more...

The Bayou Trilogy

Review of: Daniel Woodrell

(Mulholland Books) Thanks to the success of the Academy Award nominated film Winter's Bone based on his novel of the same name, Daniel Woodrell has received wider recognition as a one of today's most significant literary voices.  Another fantastic film Ride read more...

Candidate Waltz

Review of: Centro-matic

(Undertow Music)  The last five years have been an interesting journey for Centro-matic and its fearless leader Will Johnson since

Two Matchsticks

Review of: The Wooden Birds

(Barsuk Records) The Wooden Birds, hailing from Austin, began as Andrew Kenny's post-American Analog Set recording project. Their first album Magnolia was released in 2009, and though a strong debut, it had the feel of a solo rather than group album. read more...


Review of: My Morning Jacket

(ATO Records) Today, more than ten years in on an acclaimed career, it should be remembered that My Morning Jacket hit the ground running right out of the gate and have never really stopped.  Lauded as a band to watch when they emerged from the Louisville music scene at read more...

Loud Planes Fly Low

Review of: The Rosebuds

(Merge Records) The Rosebuds began in the most romantic of ways.  Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp formed the band the same week they got married.  They met in college in Wilmington, NC and then settled in Raleigh becoming mainstays in that music scene.  Their read more...

Bride Of The Noisemakers

Review of: Bruce Hornsby

(429 Records) With the release of his new live album, Bride of the Noisemakers, Virginian Bruce Hornsby celebrates his 25th anniversary of his recording breakthrough.  It is hard to believe that it was 1986 when his song "The Way It Is" dominated the read more...

The Dreaming Fields

Review of: Matraca Berg

 (Dualtone Records) The release of The Dreaming Fields is certainly cause for celebration.  Not of the wild party variety, but the type of celebration that one feels on the inside, knowing that something good has just happened, something to read more...

Confederate Buddha

Review of: Jimbo Mathus

(Memphis International) Sometimes it is hard to keep pace with Jimbo Mathus's creative path, but he's always made it worth the effort to try.  This prolific Mississippian has been making music for decades now, connecting and promoting southern music traditions every read more...

Never Ending Soul Food Tour: Monroe's Smokehouse

Review of: Monroe's Smokehouse BBQ

Monroe's Smokehouse BBQ 4838 Highway Avenue Jacksonville, FL 32254 904-389-5551 James Calemine’s “Never Ending Soul Food Tour” includes documented visits read more...

It's Already Tomorrow

Review of: Foster & Lloyd

(Effen Ell Records) Of late, the music business has been overrun by reunions.  Sadly, most of these are done to take advantage of millions in touring and merchandise.  The Eagles come to mind as they ushered in a cottage industry of high profile (and high profit) read more...

Tenth Life

Review of: Antietam

(Carrot Top Records) Antietam debuted in the Louisville indie scene back during the 80s.  Although Louisville has since emerged as an amazing music scene producing artists like Will Oldham (Palace,

Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

Review of: Black Stone Cherry

(Roadrunner Records) Take some Skynyrd attitude and mix in some Seattle grunge with a dash of Nickelback's hooks, and you have a pretty good sense of Black Stone Cherry, a proud second generation southern rock band.  BSC's drummer, John Fred Young, is the son of

Paper Airplane

Review of: Alison Krauss and Union Station

Sometimes it is difficult to understand the broad influence of an artist while a career is ongoing.  Make no mistake, Alison Krauss has changed music.  It's hard to deny her 26 Grammy wins. She brought "newgrass" music to the mainstream including working read more...

Barton Hollow

Review of: The Civil Wars

Last night as I sat with friends on my porch overlooking Elk River, I put The Civil Wars' new album Barton Hollow read more...

Invariable Heartache

Review of: KORT

(City Slang) KORT, the duo of singer-songwriter Cortney Tidwell and Lambchop's Kurt Wagner, has made a true Nashville record, true to the history of its country music roots.  Before the pop sheen and polish that have invaded Music City became its dominant sound, read more...

Ben Hall!

Review of: Ben Hall

(Tompkins Square) Nashville's Ben Hall, originally from Okolona, Mississippi, is barely twenty years old, and he has already has won flat-picking contests from Kentucky to Arkansas.  Like another great young guitarist,

Behold The Spirit

Review of: William Tyler

(Tompkins Square) William Tyler rise as a noted guitarist in Guitar Town comes from his indelible work with the Silver Jews, soul legend Candi Staton, and Lambchop - the ensemble that Tyler remains with today.  Although a young man, Tyler's approach to the guitar is read more...


Review of: Ben Sollee

(Tin Ear) Ben Sollee is a classically-trained cellist who was raised in Kentucky on a healthy dose of bluegrass, jazz, and old time R&B.  If that's sounds like a strange combination, it is.  However, Sollee has emerged as one of the most interesting and dynamic read more...

American Nomad

Review of: The Apache Relay

(Nomadic/Thirty Tigers) As the Apache Relay's follow up to their critically lauded debut, American Nomad has been widely anticipated by many people who identified this band as one to watch.  The previous album by this Nashville-based ensemble was produced by read more...

Solitary Pleasure

Review of: James Leg

(Alive Records) The White Stripes and the Black Keys might be today's most noted purveyors of punk-influenced blues, but its roots go back much further to bands, producers, and studios from Memphis who became enamored with the minimalist sound, often just guitar and drum, of read more...

Night Covers

Review of: The Watson Twins

(TWT Records) History repeats.  Sometimes this is an ominous message, and sometimes not.  For musicians, many of which have been undermined by the reeling health of the music industry at large in recent years, lessons can be learned from history.  Case in read more...

McLemore Avenue

Review of: Booker T & The MGs

(Concord Music Group) Recorded in January 1970, McLemore Avenue was the great Memphis group Booker T & The MGs tribute to the Beatles' landmark album Abbey Road. Booker T. Jones revealed read more...

The Party Ain't Over

Review of: Wanda Jackson

(Third Man/Nonesuch) After his impressive turn in producing Lorreta Lynn's Van Lear Rose, people have been waiting for Jack White to work his production magic on another Nashville legend. Since that record, White has assembled an amazing creative hub in Nashville with read more...

New Orleans Jokerman

Review of: The Last Waltz Ensemble

(Raymond Records) The Last Waltz Ensemble formed in 2004. This Atlanta band plays the music of Bob Dylan &

Crossing the Creek

Review of: Anna Lillios

Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings University Press of Florida,  Gainesville, FL ,  2010 Literary friendships are relatively commonplace, but a friendship which reaches read more...

Water Bound

Review of: Shannon Whitworth

(Thirty Tigers) Water Bound counts as Shannon Whitworth's second release. Whitworth served as a member of The Biscut Burners. She released her first album--No Expectations--in 2008 and hit the road. Born in Virginia, Whitworth grew up in South Carolina and read more...

RIYEL----Eclectic and Kreyol Jazz

Review of: RIYEL (Ken Watters, Andre Atkins, Yves Abel)

 Summit Records, April 2010 Released internationally on April 13, 2010, Riyel’s first album is an overview of read more...

The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans

Review of: David Lummis

SIster Schubert: Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters

Review of: SIster Schubert

Reviewed by Penne J. Laubenthal Sister Shubert's recent cookbook,

A Review of Undeniable Truths

Review of: A. M. Garner

Rank Stranger Press, November 2009 Reviewed by Penne J. Laubenthal This month Anita M. Garner published her first collection of short stories: Undeniable read more...

Fairly Odd Mother

Review of: Kelly Kazek

Published by iUniverse, Inc   2009 Reviewed by Penne J. Laubenthal I have been a huge fan of humor in journalism for over thirty years. I particularly enjoy those southern humorists who follow in the footsteps of

When The Buddha Met Bubba: A Review

Review of: Richard "Dixie" Hartwell

Turner Publishing Co., Nashville, TN  2009 Reviewed by Penne J. Laubenthal When the Buddha Met Bubba is best-selling author

Pat Conroy's "South of Broad": A Review

Review of: Pat Conroy

Published by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday Company, August 2009 Reviewed by Penne J. Laubenthal When I read my first Pat Conroy book in the early 70s, it was love at first paragraph. When I finished reading the read more...

When The Devil's Loose

Review of: A.A. Bondy

After releasing one of 2008's best records, American Hearts, A.A. Bondy returns with the equally compelling When the Devil's read more...

Among The Gold

Review of: Cheyenne Mize and Bonnie "Prince" Billy

"Old music is a major passion of mine. As I mentioned, I play a little old-time fiddle and have always loved old gospel music. The idea of keeping old music alive is very important to me" -  Cheyenne Mize Considering the substance of Mize’s read more...

Love Filling Station

Review of: Jesse Winchester

Jesse Winchester's songs have been recorded by songwriting legends like Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffett, Ralph Stanley, Delbert McClinton, and the Everly Brothers too name a few.  

Delta Blues

Review of: Ted Gioia

Delta Blues:The Life and Times of Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music by Ted Gioia W. W. Norton, 2008 Reviewed by bluesman Billy C. Farlow Delta Blues read more...

I'm That Way

Review of: Beth McKee

Is it something in the water?  Something in the land? People can analyze all they want, but Southerners have a different relationship to music than others.  Beth McKee is prime example number one. This Jackson, MS girl has toughed it out as a musician with a career read more...

Written In Chalk

Review of: Buddy and Julie Miller

(New West Records) A broken heart grown cold is the hardest burden you can find

Milking the Moon

Review of: Eugene Walter

Milking the Moon: A Southerner's Story of Life on this Planet  Eugene Walter (as told to Katherine Clark) Crown Publishers Reviewed by Penne J. Laubenthal Hold on to your hat and get ready for a wild ride.

Dixieland Delight

Review of: Clay Travis

As we head into the off season, now that the recruiting season is over (mostly), there might be no better time to pick up and read Clay Travis's

Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi

Review of: Nanci Kincaid

Nanci Kincaid’s most recent novel hit the bookstores just two weeks before President Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address, read more...

One Foot In The Groove

Review of: Donnie Fritts

Donnie is simply one of the best songwriters around.  "One Foot in the Groove" is humorous, clever and heartbreaking. Everyone should own it.

From The Reach

Review of: Sonny Landreth

Sonny Landreth From The Reach Landfall Records Sonny Landreth returns with his first record in 5 years.  With his deep catalog of work both as a solo artist and a collaborator/contributor to others (

The Prince of Frogtown

Review of: Rick Bragg

“My father was the prince of Frogtown” writes Alabama author and Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg in his latest book entitled

Riverbend Music Festival: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Review of: The Black Crowes

The Riverbend Music Festival Chattanooga, Tennessee The Black Crowes 6/6/08 By James Calemine Chris and Rich Robinson played their first official gig in read more...

Lie Down In The Light

Review of: Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Indie-hero Will Oldham began his career in "entertainment" as a teenage actor.  Most notably, he carried John Sayles' Matewan as a miner and a young read more...

Being Dead Is No Excuse

Review of: Gayden Metcalf and Charlotte Hays

Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting The Perfect Funeral Hyperion Press, 2005 Reviewed by Penne J. Laubenthal Straight out of the Mississippi Delta,

Darius Goes West

Review of: Logan Smalley

“Something’s gonna happen like…Just spark the whole world,” exclaims Darius, the star of the award-winning independent documentary feature film Darius Goes West (DGW), 2007. read more...

Song of America

Review of: Various Artists

Song of America Various Artists 31 Tigers Records By James Calemine This 50-song, 3 CD collection tells the story of America through songs from the year 1492 through modern times. Song of America contains a diverse line-up of artists read more...


Review of: Carter Martin

KELBRN by Carter Martin Xlibris Press, 2007

Runnin' With The Big Dogs

Review of: Mike Shropshire

Part of [beating Texas] is that old Okie inferiority complex. There’s no better cure for that than whipping Texas’s butt. -Barry Switzer, former Oklahoma coach In 1929 at the height of the Great Depression, the Texas-Oklahoma game was moved read more...

The Scene of the Crime

Review of: Bettye LaVette

  Bettye LaVette The Scene of the Crime Anti

Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology

Review of: Various Authors

Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama Poetry  edited by Sue Brannan Walker and J. William Chambers Negative Capability Press, Mobile, Alabama Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama Poetry, edited by Sue read more...

Blues Story

Review of: Various Artists

(Shout! Factory) Up until now, the definitive blues documentary had to be Deep Blues, The Robert Palmer vehicle that took us all deep into the Delta on a ride we would never forget. Now comes a simple awesome chronicle of the blues genre, Blues Story, told by read more...


Review of: John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker Hooker (Boxed Set) (Shout! Factory) In a beautiful 4-CD set that both begins and ends with his most well known hit “Boogie Chillin,” blues legend John Lee Hooker is given all due respect with a read more...

Donnie Fritts and Friends

Review of: Various Artists

Donnie Fritts and Friends Norton Auditorium University of North Alabama Florence, AL January 22, 2000 Donnie Fritts began his lifetime in music read more...

Muscle Shoals Sounds: The Rhythm Of The River

Review of: Various Artists

Back on November 13, the University of North Alabama hosted a symposium dedicated to the musical history of the Muscle Shoals area. The event mainly covered the area's musical past, but also included segments on the business of songwriting, modern studio production, read more...

Wildcat Tamer

Review of: Dale Hawkins

(Mystic Music) The problem with "revival" records from "oldies" artists is that they usually fall into two categories. Either the recordings try to meticulously recapture their old sound with an almost sterile purity, or they are a shameless read more...

Chock Full Of Country Goodness

Review of: Amazing Rhythm Aces

Amazing Rhythm Aces "Chock Full Of Country Goodness" Breaker Productions Born out of soul music's ashes, this six man ensemble played country music - meaning the music defined by Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Bob Wills, and sometimes Al read more...

Say It One Time For The Brokenhearted

Review of: Barney Hoskyns

In the wake of Ray Charles's new country music box set as well as Lambchop's recent soul dabbling both on their own and with Vic Chestnutt, this reprint of Barney Hoskyns's "country soul" study couldn't have come at a better time. "Say It One Time For the read more...

Loose Strings

Review of: Carlo Nuccio

Carlo Nuccio Loose Strings Monkey Hill Records Carlo Nuccio has been kicking around New Orleans for over a decade serving as the drummer in residence for the roots rock scene in the Crescent City. Some might recall him from the Continental Drifter's read more...

Rest Of Our Days

Review of: Pawtuckets

Memphis has always seemed to exist in contrast to Nashville. Years ago as Nashville grew with country music, Memphis became one of the birthplaces of rock and roll. The dicotomy between these two Tennessee cities has been immortalized by fringe Nashville artist John Hiatt in his read more...

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