- - Monday, March 23, 2015

The summer festivals and concert circuit are heating up, and that means we’re hearing plenty of new country, folk, Americana and other tunes on radio, Spotify, YouTube, iTunes and myriad other outlets.

As the saying goes, though, sorting through the music is akin to taking a drink from a fire hose. That is one reason we sort through some of the latest releases and recommend some that we think readers will enjoy. Here are our latest recommendations:

Clarence Bucaro

Like the 1st Time

The latest album by Brooklyn-based roots artist Clarence Bucaro, “Like the 1st Time,” features members of Wilco, Iron & Wine and The Blind Boys of Alabama. Those big names likely will entice more than a few people to check out the 11 original folk-mixed-with-blues songs.

Listeners will discover that Mr. Bucaro’s talent equals that of his nationally known guests. Although most of them join Mr. Bucaro’s backing band, one wonders whether they are necessary considering Mr. Bucaro’s shimmering acoustic guitar work and fervent vocals that anchor the music. Still, the impassioned vocals of The Blind Boys of Alabama on “Let the Mystery In” are gratifying. Mr. Bucaro’s music is akin to a mix of the soft sentiments of James Taylor folk and the sizzling blues of John Lee Hooker, seasoned with some Arlo Guthrie flourishes such as those on “I’m Going Home.” Bottom line: Don’t miss it.

The Roving Crows


This is a transitional time for the Roving Crows, which entered the British folk scene in 2009 and almost immediately captured several national awards and coveted play on local and national radio. Fiddler extraordinaire Caitlin Barrett said the Crows’ latest EP, “Upheaval,” debuts the reworked and revamped sound since the departures of drummer Tim Tolhurst and trumpeter Greg Wilson-Copp. Although the instrumentation and arrangements on this five-song EP are sparser than those on earlier recordings — notably the group’s 2013 album “Deliberate Distractions” — the band’s sound remains addictive. Yes, the percussion-driven, atmospheric sound on “Journeyman’s Blues” and the sprightly up-tempo drum-and-fiddle-laden “Big Man” — both on “Deliberate Distractions” — are missed, but the newly minted three-piece band has a lush, distinctive sound all its own. This welcome configuration allows Miss Barrett to fully showcase her fiddle prowess and singular vocals. Standout tracks include the up-tempo opener “Casanova Is Burning” and the haunting title track full of traditionally inspired tones. It would be a mistake not to note the simple acoustics and harmonies on these five original songs. Bottom line: The Roving Crows soar.

Sugarcane Jane

Dirt Road’s End

Want some pound-on-the-dashboard tunes that are distinct from those that roll out of the Nashville hit factories? Meet Sugarcane Jane, known individually as Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee, who just released the funky, frisky, up-tempo 10-track “Dirt Road’s End.” How do two musicians pop up out of nowhere and create an album that deserves to be at the top of critics’ lists? The secret is that they may be newcomers to some listeners but not to those in the know in Nashville. The duo individually worked with dozens of household-name artists such as Steve Winwood, Neil Young, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris before they met by happenstance. The two Alabama-born, Nashville-based artists, who are now married, mix and match their individual styles and virtuoso musicianship into a sonic smoothie bursting with old-style banjo, bass, lap steel, guitar, harmonica, boat paddle and more around just the right mix of hillbilly-tinged vocals. Bottom line: One of the best Nashville duos since Johnny and June.

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