Here With Me – Holly Williams
When you’re the daughter of Bocephus, you tend to tell it like it is. “I’m such a blatantly honest person,” says Holly Williams, “and I love to listen to an album and think the artist is truly sharing their life with me. I like to feel like I’m really getting in and knowing that person.”

With this sophomore album, she has succeeded in creating the type of CD that would easily find a place among the works of her favorite artists. Penning the majority of the album’s 11 tracks, including the stellar single “Keep the Change,” Williams writes with piercing clarity on situations plucked from her life.

At 28, the Alabama-born, Tennessee-bred singer has been using music to tell the story of her life and those around her for the better part of two decades. But in March 2006, tragedy almost struck. She and her older sister Hilary were involved in a devastating wreck in Tunica, Miss., and the sisters were both in critical condition. Looking back on the accident, Williams is thankful she and her sister survived. The events of that day forever changed the course of her life and serve as the inspiration for one of Here With Me’s most stirring tracks, “Without Jesus Here With Me.”

“Living through that wreck was a miracle,” she says. “My sister told me one mile before it happened to put on my seatbelt. I usually never would have put it on, but it saved my life.

Even the fact that my arm is here is a miracle. The car was lying on top of it. We landed sideways, and they thought when they pulled me out of the car that my arm wouldn’t be going with me. But it was only broken. The whole experience was a real turning point for me.”

Her new songs began to take on a more straightforward tone. One song in particular, “Mama,” struck a chord with Williams’ live audiences and eventually led to a record deal with Mercury Nashville. It is the latest single from the CD.
Grade: A

127 Rose Avenue – Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Williams Jr. may be 60, but he was born to boogie, as we all know. And he’s got a knack for politics, too. In November, Bocephus announced he’d run for Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seat in 2012 as a Republican, challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Corker. Williams was reported to have already consulted with Sen. Lamar Alexander and former Sen. Bill Frist, both Republicans from Tennessee. He gives us a taste of his future politics with his first studio album in six years, which includes the popular blue-collar anthem, “Red, White & Pink-Slip Blues.” The overtly political track touches on the present economic problems. Other songs of note include “Gulf Shore Road,” “Last Driftin’ Cowboy” and a remake of one of his father’s classics, “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.”
Grade: B

Bluegrass & Beyond – Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top X-Press
Bobby Osborne, legendary mandolin player and vocalist with the seminal bluegrass ensemble The Osborne Brothers (singers of the 1968 classic “Rocky Top”), returns with his band the Rocky Top X-Press for the aptly titled Bluegrass & Beyond. This is a sparkling collection featuring generous helpings of straight-ahead bluegrass, gospel soul and traditional country, and it includes bluegrass arrangements of some surprising material (The Eagles’ “Girl From Yesterday,” Eddie Rabbit’s “Drivin’ My Life Away”). Guest appearances include Marty Stuart, Connie Smith (“What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul”) and Rhonda and Darrin Vincent (“After the Fire Is Gone”), along with solid support from the Rocky Top X-Press.
Grade: B

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Sound Bites
·Elvis Costello’s latest release delves into country and bluegrass. Secret, Profane & Sugarcane includes Jerry Douglas on dobro, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Mike Compton on mandolin and Jim Lauderdale and Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals, among others.

·Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King is the band’s seventh studio album and the first since 2005’s Stand Up.

·The legendary parody band Spinal Tap is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the “This Is Spinal Tap” mockumentary by releasing a new album, Back from the Dead, its first since 1992’s Break Like the Wind.

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