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Lightning Rod Records signs Quaker City Night Hawks

The Quaker City Night Hawks – Sam Anderson and David Matsler n vocals and guitars, Pat Adams on bass, Aaron Haynes on drums — are a Southern band, to be sure. But it's not the South we've come to expect from Rock and Roll. Equally influenced by ZZ Top and science fiction, the Dallas Observer's Best Band of 2015 writes of landscapes both familiar and foreign, and they are set to deliver their 9-track 'El Astronauta’ debut May 20 via Lightning Rod Records.

Eras collide in every aspect of the album, from the title—which merges Texas' Spanish and Mexican roots with its role at the center of the modern space race—to its pop art cover, which depicts a classic '70s hot rod that's been modified into a spacecraft hovering over an exotic desert landscape. "Mockingbird" plays out as a classic-rock road-warrior's tale souped-up for the 22nd century, while "Liberty Bell 7" re-imagines current-day border issues through the eyes of a "space coyote" smuggling illegal immigrants on and off the planet. The track, engineered by Centromatic's Matt Pence, is named for a real NASA mission from 1961.

Protest song "Beat The Machine" rails against a military and prison industrial complex that seems to hold a vice grip over modern American politics, while the JFK-inspired "The Last Great Audit" grimly assures us that we'll "never walk through the gates of His promised land 'til we shake off our bloody ancestors' blues," and album-closer "Sons and Daughters" is a rollicking dose of secular gospel.

"This whole record sums up that feeling when you finally start to realize that you've been surrounded by bullshit," says frontman Sam Anderson. "It's immense and depressing at first to understand that things aren’t the way people told you they would be growing up, but coming out the other side, you see everybody else is in the same boat. We've been lied to for a long time, but now it's time to figure it out and move on and do something about it."

Change, and the need for it, is a central theme on the record, and one that weighs heavily on the band members' minds as they enter a new phase of adulthood. This isn't the South of their fathers, nor is it the America they'd been promised growing up, but ‘El Astronauta’ is a statement on putting aside differences long enough to make life enjoyable for everyone.

The Quaker City Night Hawks – who have solidified a raucous live show by opening for Chris Stapleton, Leon Bridges and Lucero, -- have been far out there, but they're anything but low down as they prepare for their first major foray into the national spotlight. Anderson was one of the first to invite fellow Ft. Worth native Leon Bridges to perform during set breaks at his shows, and the two recently reunited to perform for an upcoming Danny Clinch documentary that was teased during the GRAMMY Awards.

‘El Astronauta’ Tracklist:
1. Good Evening
2. Liberty Bell 7
3. Mockingbird
4. Something To Burn
5. Beat The Machine
6. Medicine Man
7. Duendes
8. The Last Great Audit
9. Sons & Daughters

Joe Pug's Critically-Acclaimed "Windfall" Out Now

"He's an American singer-songwriter and he's 27 or 28 years old, but he sounds fully grown. His song 'If Still It Can't Be Found' is the best thing I've heard in a while. Joe Pug: He's our Jake Bugg!" - Brandon Flowers, The Killers

"Joe Pug's third record 'Windfall', his most accomplished work to date...His folk compositions are now soaked in Southern Country instrumentation and references that elevate his work to the level of some of his influences, which presumably include Jason Isbell and Ryan Adams' work with Whiskeytown. If you throw a dash of Springsteen's 'Nebraska' into the mix, you'll have a good idea of what to expect here, although Pug is too accomplished to make his own brand of Americana sound derivative." - Jim Pusey, Contact Music

"From Willie Nelson to Butch Hancock to Bruce Robison to Patty Griffin, Austin has long been known for harboring some of the best songwriters in American music. On “Windfall,” Pug rises squarely into that echelon." - Peter Blackstock, Austin American Statesman

[Burn and Shine] is one of 10 on Pug's tastefully, but ever-artfully produced new set. And each one stands up on its own merit, which is why Pug has drawn comparisons to guys like Ryan Adams and Josh Ritter over the course of his career." - Kelly McCartney, The Bluegrass Situation

Ryan Culwell's "Flatlands" Gains Praise

"Culwell could have played a perfunctory 30 minutes. Instead he poured serious soul into his Panhandle tales of dry earth, dusty marriages and unpretty resilience, telling rich stories to introduce each song and nailing the wild high notes of his choruses. He made art of his craft, never scrimping on the details. His songs themselves wring grace from plain and often dark details, expressing the realities of class and region in ways that many other artists barely touch. Here is a working man, a working musician, delivering his best. It was a star turn, no matter how many people witnessed it." - Ann Powers, NPR

"Like Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Rodney Crowell, Nanci Griffith and so many others before him, Ryan Culwell wears his heritage on his sleeve, right next to his heart." - Kelly McCartney, The Bluegrass Situation

"The score to some long-lost Cormac McCarthy film, its tracklist split between roadhouse-worthy roots rockers, front porch country songs and haunting, blue-collar ballads about life and loneliness in the lone Star State." - Andrew Leahey, Rolling Stone

Billy Joe Shaver & Willie Nelson perform "Hard To Be An Outlaw" on Letterman

Billy Joe Shaver's Long in the Tooth among most-acclaimed albums of the year

"Shaver isn't a household name himself, but he's among the most respected living writers of country music.” —NPR MORNING EDITION

“He’s become a much more interesting artist in his old age.” —NPR FRESH AIR

“A haunting, burning, world-weary tour de force on the ways of the world” —UNCUT

“Arguably his most fully realized album in a 50-plus-year career.” —ESQUIRE

" you’re going to get the truth from Billy Joe. He speaks the way he writes, candidly and with a novelist’s gift for keen observation. Long in the Tooth is full of straightforward, slice-of-life songs that speak to the subjects of love, messing around, childhood memories and even the current record industry, of which he’s not especially enamored.” —COUNTRY WEEKLY

“Owing to his indomitable instincts, Long in the Tooth is among Shaver’s best yet.” —RELIX

“Shaver’s songs — chronicling life as a sinner, booer, brawler and teller ofd tall tales — has never shied away from gritty drama.” —ACOUSTIC GUITAR

"This is pure, non-commercial country, the way Shaver has always played it, performed with grit and grace from one of the genre’s most under appreciated yet veteran artists who, to borrow a quote from Dylan Thomas, is clearly “not going gently into that good night.” —AMERICAN SONGWRITER

"The wild rebel streak that made Shaver’s lyrics sound fearless when he first hit Nashville made him seem plain reckless in every other regard. Even now, after twenty years of sobriety, he maintains an appreciable distance from convention.” —TEXAS MONTHLY

“All these years later, he’s still, by his own admission, more coal tyhan diamond. But whaty Shaver fan woild want him any other way?”—LONE STAR MUSIC

"When it comes to listing all the true country music heroes from that time of Waylon and Willie and the boys, put Billy Joe Shaver right at the top of the pack. He earns it every time he opens his mouth—and heart.” —THE MORTON REPORT

“It ought to guve shaver that long overdue and erstwhile elusive chart success he deserves.” —MAVERICK

"On his first studio disc in seven years, 75-year-old country outlaw Shaver sounds older, wiser and calmer than the two-fisted hellraiser he was. But he’s still got more than enough spark — plus some help from old pals like Leon Russell, Willie Nelson and Tony Joe White — to power these old-school honky-tonk and country confessions. He may be long in the tooth, but he ain’t short on what it takes.” —TORONTO SUN

“There are some songs that may rank with Shaver's best. That's no small feat for the man who wrote 'Georgia on a Fast Train,' 'Honky Heroes’ and'Ride Me Down Easy,' among others in what Steve Earle calls 'one of the greatest bodies of work ever produced by any songwriter dead or alive’” —NO DEPRESSION

"Not only did he pen the picaresque songs that launched one of popular music's most enduring genres, Mr. Shaver has lived them.” —THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

"Billy Joe Shaver came into this world rough around the edges, so his songwriting resonates with unmatched autobiographical intensity and Long in the Tooth follows suit. Contrary to the album title, he ain't headed for pasture anytime soon.” —AUSTIN CHRONICLE

“Absolutely magnetic and filled with a joy of life that he earned the hard way.” —LOS ANGELES TIMES (live review)

"Old cowboys love to lament that contemporary country music's in a sorry state and guilty of casting aside sage singers and songwriters — like Billy Joe Shaver. The crusty Texan trots out that trope at the start of his new album, and then spends the rest of the record showing he still has plenty to say.” —THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (AP) Premieres Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires cover of "Born In The U.S.A."

2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A. Although it would become his biggest selling album with seven top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars says "any of those songs could be played with acoustic guitar alone and still be great." Taking this idea as its premise, Dead Man's Town: A Tribute to Born in the U.S.A (out 9/16, Lighting Rod Records) strips the album's twelve indelible originals to the core, with contributions from Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, Low, Nicole Atkins, Justin Townes Earle, Blitzen Trapper, Joe Pug, Trampled by Turtles, and more. Rolling premiered Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires' Dave Cobb-produced cover of "Born In The U.S.A," saying these artists are "reimagining Born in the U.S.A.... with a reduced approach more influenced by that of the acoustic 'Nebraska.'"

Isbell says of his cover, ""Born In The U.S.A." is one of my favorites because so many people have seemingly misunderstood the lyrical content and the song's overall tone. When you listen to the demo, the dark, minor key arrangement makes it clear that this is not strictly a song of celebration. We wanted to stay true to that version." Amanda Shires adds, "I love that the song paints a picture of struggle in the face of the American dream, and the irony in the chorus is delivered with such force that it nearly transcends irony altogether."


New Billy Joe Shaver album coming August 5

Billy Joe Shaver’s finest songs prowl (“Hard To Be an Outlaw”) and punch (“Music City USA”) with welterweight fury. Evidence: The legendary outlaw’s seamless Long in the Tooth. Shaver’s first studio album in six years showcases a singular songwriter in absolutely peak form as he unearths his trademark truths around every corner. “This is the best album I’ve ever done,” he says.

Long in the Tooth, set for August 5, 2014 release on Lightning Rod Records through Thirty Tigers, charts his journey as an unrepentant outlaw. Accordingly, Shaver delivers the classic country fans expect but also brings all new sonic tricks this time around. “Each song is different with different beats and different kinds of music,” he says. “Songwriting is gut wrenching, but if you dig down and write real honest you’ll find something real great. I believe everybody should write. It’s the cheapest psychiatrist there is and, God knows, I still need one.”

New Amanda Shires video for "Look Like A Bird"

Billy Joe Shaver is playing four times in Austin during SXSW

Turnpike Troubadours cover "If You're Gonna Play in Texas" For High Cotton: A Tribute to Alabama

High Cotton: A Tribute To Alabama coming 9/17

For the 40th anniversary of Country Music supergroup Alabama, Lightning Rod Records assembled a wide variety of artists to record covers of their hits and lesser-known album cutsHigh Cotton: A Tribute To Alabama features artists ranging from legendary gospel blues group Blind Boys of Alabama to gritty Memphis rockers Lucero to country soul shouter JD McPherson who put their unique spin on the Alabama repertoire.

The winding track listing of Alabama's catalog take listeners through Texas heroes like Wade Bowen and Jason Boland and the Stragglers to Generation Y performers like Jessica Lea Mayfield and her ethereal rendition of "I'm In A Hurry." Old Crow Medicine Show showcase the number one song "Dixieland Delight."

Executive producer Logan Rogers has long been an Alabama fan and isn't alone in his excitement to hear the finished product: “It seems too good to be true for me to get some of my favorite bands to record Alabama songs. It was clear that all these artists share my genuine love and respect for Alabama’s body of work, and this album exceeded all my expectations.” Recorded in the south between Muscle Shoals, Athens, and Nashville, this record breathes the respect and love that these performers have for supergroup Alabama.

A select number of the participating artists will pay tribute to Alabama live on Saturday, September 21st at Grimey's New and Preloved Music in Nashville as part of Americanarama.

Track listing:
Why Lady Why – JD McPherson
Dixieland Delight – Old Crow Medicine Show
If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band) – Turnpike Troubadours
Old Flame – Jason Isbell and John Paul White
High Cotton – T. Hardy Morris
I Can’t Love You Any Less – Amanda Shires
I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why) – Jessica Lea Mayfield
Lady Down On Love – Bob Schneider and Texas Bluegrass Massacre w/ Ray Benson
Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler) – Shonna Tucker and Eye Candy
The Closer You Get – Lucero
Feels So Right – Todd Snider and Elizabeth Cook
Love in the First Degree – Wade Bowen and Brandy Clark
Mountain Music – Jason Boland and The Stragglers Christmas in Dixie – Blind Boys of Alabama

Amanda Shires Down Fell Doves Trailer

Down Fell the Doves Trailer from Erica Shires on Vimeo.


Wall Street Journal
Amanda Shires landed everywhere from NPR’s Tiny Desk to the Grand Ole Opry to the cover of Texas Music as their Artist Of The Year in 2011. Now she’s back with ‘Down Fell The Doves’ set for August 6 release via Lightning Rod Records. The album’s 11 original songs feature Amanda’s sharpest writing to date, brought to life by a voice that melts, a fiddle that sears, and guitars - played for the most part by her husband, Jason Isbell - that scrape and howl.

Shires has blossomed into a truly original voice with ‘Doves,’ which was produced by Andy LeMaster (Bright Eyes, REM) and recorded at his Chase Park Transduction studio in Athens, GA. “Bulletproof” ponders invincibility with the help of a Siberian tiger claw. “Wasted and Rollin’” casts a deep, impressionistic fog. For “Deep Dark Below” Shires’ attention shifts to the underworld, where the devil plays fiddle with a bow made of bones. “Song for Leonard Cohen” has a softer touch, imagining a drunken evening stroll with the master songwriter.

Now based in Nashville, Shires began playing fiddle at age ten in Texas. By 15, she had joined the Texas Playboys, former backing band of western swing pioneer Bob Wills. More recently she has toured and recorded with Shovels & Rope, Snider and Justin Townes Earle who says, “With a voice that whispers Dolly and lyrics that scream Faulkner, this girl shines like a diamond.”

‘Down Fell The Doves’ tracklist:
1. Look Like A Bird
2. Devastate
3. Bulletproof
4. Box Cutters
5. Deep Dark Below
6. Wasted And Rollin’
7. If I
8. Stay
9. Drop And Lift
10. A Song For Leonard Cohen
11. The Garden Song

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit announce new live album

Nashville, TN – Live From Alabama, the first full-length live album from Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, is set for a November 20 release on Lightning Rod Records/Thirty Tigers. The live set comes on the heels of receiving the award for SONG OF THE YEAR at the 2012 Americana Music Awards & Honors for his song “Alabama Pines”. The song comes from the group’s the highly acclaimed 2011 release, Here We Rest, which received three other Americana Award nominations.

Here We Rest is Isbell’s most celebrated album to date. Upon its release, Here We Rest reached the highest debut chart position of Isbell’s career by cracking the top 100 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart. This was accompanied by critical affirmation from a wide range of outlets, including NPR, Associated Press, Esquire, GQ, SPIN, USA Today, Blurt, My Old Kentucky Blog and many more capping 2011 with an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Live From Alabama was recorded in Isbell’s home state during a couple of sold out shows in August 2012 at the WorkPlay Theater in Birmingham, AL and Crossroads in Huntsville, AL. The album’s set list showcases the diversity of styles the band can ease into and the versatility and skill of their musicianship. Add in the passion and sheer intensity of their performances, plus a three-piece horn section, and you have an album that captures a band in their true element at their prime.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit (keyboardist Derry deBorja, bassist Jimbo Hart and drummer Chad Gamble) perform favorites from Isbell’s entire body of work, as well as a few nuggets, including a no-holds-barred rendition of Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane.”

Critics praise Joe Pug's "The Great Despiser"

"A finely crafted eleven track collection that continues to push Joe Pug further into the pantheon of brilliant contemporary modern folk interpreters."--PopMatters

“The best thing to happen to the singer-songwriter genre in a while.” – The Washington Post

"Joe Pug's 2008 debut EP, Nation of Heat, introduced a prescient new voice, the Chicago singer-songwriter dragging a weary husk of harmonica-accented drawl and a poised conscience both political and personal that conjured Dylan, Prine, and Earle. 2010's debut LP Messenger fulfilled that promise behind exceptionally wrought acoustic narratives, and upcoming sophomore effort The Great Despiser continues to cut Americana to the bone."--Austin Chronicle

"Joe Pug is a serious songwriter, in the line of Guthrie, Dylan and Van Zandt. His best songs are American jeremiads, composed with images both fiery and fragile, calling down simple truths on his country and himself. On this year's release, The Great Despiser, he tests those songs against different sounds — E Street swagger, feedback stutter, waltzing country — and searches for "a narrative that was ours." Song by exceptional song, he's finding it."--The Riverfront Times

Joe Pug makes literate folk sound fresh again ... with fractured tales of the American dream and crisp arrangements full of texture.” – The Portland Mercury

“A keen eye, sharp pen and a singer capable of cutting through the melancholy of a Sunday morning” – The Oregonian

“(The Great Despiser) takes Pug’s storytelling and makes the music an equally able raconteur –a subtle change from the six-strings, mouth harp and early-Dylan-inspired rhythm where he began.” – American Songwriter

“I’m not sure that there’s a songwriter alive that instinctively understands the human condition quite like Joe Pug. His words have a magical ability to lead a listener to inner demons, self-discovery, healing, humility, and a healthy dose of laughter.”--Hear Ya

Hear Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's Here We Rest

New Joe Pug album, The Great Despiser, coming April 24

The Great Despiser, the new album from celebrated singer-songwriter Joe Pug, will be released April 24 on Lightning Rod Records. This is the follow-up to Pug’s critically acclaimed full-length debut, Messenger (2010), and his wildly popular word-of-mouth EP, Nation of Heat (2008). Of the music, NPR Music praises, “Not only does Chicago-based singer have a beautifully mature voice, but the lyrics on Pug’s debut EP, Nation of Heat, possess wisdom seemingly beyond his age. Pair that with his powerful songwriting and it's nearly impossible to avoid drawing comparisons between Pug and folk legends like Bob Dylan or contemporaries like Josh Ritter,” while American Songwriter heralds, “In the new batch on Messenger—his first full-length—he turns unblurred thought and crisp imagery toward more introspective territory, to good result.”

The 11-track album was recorded in Chicago with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine, Califone, etc). In addition to Pug, the album features various acclaimed musicians, including Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim) on piano, organ and marimba as well as backing vocals from The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn on the album’s title track.

Pug has toured alongside Steve Earle, M. Ward and Josh Ritter and has recently performed at both Lollapalooza and the Newport Folk Festival. In celebration of the album, he will embark on a nationwide headlining tour, including an appearance at SXSW. See reverse for complete details.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's video for "Alabama Pines"

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit to play Letterman

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit are making their network television debut when they play Late Show with David Letterman on Friday November 4 at 11:30pm.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's "Go It Alone" on Sons of Anarchy

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's song, "Go It Alone," appears on episode 2 of this season's Sons of Anarcy. You can download it at iTunes for only $.69 for a limited time.


Label-mates James McMurtry and Jason Isbell to tour together

Lightning Rod Records artists James McMurtry and Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit will embark on a co-headline tour this fall. A complete list of cities and venues listed below. For a limited time, fans can download a four-song tour sampler featuring songs from each artist.

Wed-Oct-19 New York, NY City Winery
Fri-Oct-21 Washington, DC 930 Club
Sat-Oct-22 Roanoke, VA Awful Arthurs Towers
Sun-Oct-23 Charleston, WV Mountain Stage
Wed-Oct-26 Raleigh, NC Lincoln Theater
Thu-Oct-27 Charlotte, NC Visulite Theatre
Fri-Oct-28 Athens, GA Georgia Theatre
Fri-Nov-04 Austin, TX Antone's
Sat-Nov-05 Houston, TX The Firehouse
Sun-Nov-06 Denton, TX Dan's Silverleaf
Thu-Nov-10 San Marcos, TX Cheatham Street Warehouse
Fri-Nov-11 Dallas, TX Granada Theatre
Sat-Nov-12 Helotes, TX Floore's Country Store

Critics Praise Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit's HERE WE REST

Read what’s being said about Here We Rest:

“[Isbell] cranks things up a gear with this terrific collection of Muscle Shoals recorded country-rock” A- - Entertainment Weekly

“Isbell's third solo album is earthy and unpretentiously eclectic - bluesy shuffles, gospel tinges...” 8 out of 10 - SPIN

“One his third album, Jason Isbell reaches for, and achieves, a stunning artistic peak...Believe in him” - Blurt Magazine

“ prodigiously talented, with a singular ability to write thought-provoking, literate lyrics and deliver them in a direct, clear tenor...” Four Stars - American Songwriter

“There's a remarkable indie renaissance going on around Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Jason Isbell is right at the heart of it.” - Associated Press

“...Jason Isbell has helped revive the gritty country and soul-tinged rock that emerged from Muscle Shoals, Alabama in the sixties and seventies.” - Details

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit Here We Rest Scavenger Hunt

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit are releasing their new album, Here We Rest, on April 12, 2011 on Lightning Rod Records. GQ Magazine already declared it “the album of the first 1/3 of the year.” Isbell signed 150 of the deluxe vinyl LPs that have been distributed to record stores around the country. The vinyl package includes a bonus 7-inch single featuring the unreleased song “Brand New Stone” and a cover of Guided By Voices’ “Everywhere With Helicopter.”
Any lucky fan that finds and purchases the autographed copies at a record store will win two tickets to the 2011 Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s concert of their choice. The winning crate-diggers just need to email a photo of the purchase vinyl and place-of-purchase information to to claim the prize.

Free MP3 of "Codeine" from Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's new album, Here We Rest (out April 12)

Enter to win a test pressing of James McMurtry's "Live in Aught-Three" vinyl LP

New Album From Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Coming April 12

Here We Rest, new album from Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, is set for an April 12th release on Lightning Rod Records. Here We Rest is the second album from Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, and Isbell’s third. Their 2009 self-titled debut received high praise from the press, including Rolling Stone, Spin, Paste, Blurt, Details, Washington Post and many more.

An Alabama native, Isbell comes from a tradition of Southern music. He proudly embraces his roots, which shine through in his songs and even in the title of the new album. Here We Rest was Alabama’s original motto. However, instead of resting comfortably within its boundaries, Isbell, along with keyboardist Derry deBorja, guitarist Browan Lollar, drummer Chad Gamble and bassist Jimbo Hart transcend them. His thoughtful songwriting and warm, soulful voice are genuine, natural abilities that come through in the music.

From the soulful heartache of “We’ve Met” and “Save It For Sunday” to the country-infused folk of “Alabama Pines” and “Daisy Mae” to the old school R&B of Candi Staton’s “Heart On A String”, Here We Rest is steeped the best of southern American music. Isbell’s songs continue to reveal themselves the more you listen. From his lyrical depth to his vocals, his songs penetrate the heart and the mind, and stay with you. A true sign of great songwriting.

Here We Rest was produced by Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit and recorded at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL and at The NuttHouse in Sheffield, AL. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit will be previewing the Here We Rest during South By Southwest in Austin, TX on March 17th. A full tour will follow the April release. Stay tuned for dates.

See track listing below.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Here We Rest – Track Listing

1.) Alabama Pines
2.) Go It Alone
3.) We’ve Met
4.) Codeine
5.) Stopping By
6.) Daisy Mae
7.) The Ballad Of Nobeard
8.) Never Could Believe
9.) Heart On A String
10.) Save It For Sunday
11.) Tour Of Duty

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Joe Pug received glowing praise for his debut album, Messenger

"Unless your surname is Dylan, Waits, Ritter or Prine, you could face-palm yourself to death trying to pen songs half as inspired as the 10 tracks on Joe Pug's debut full-length...9.1 out of 10"

““Pug’s just another of those performers—like Josh Ritter, Beth Orton, Frank Turner, John Prine, and others—who has that X-factor of charisma to go along with their engaging lyrics.”

"His voice continues to command the attention of his listeners, peers and predecessors."

“Pug is a fine musician, but his strongest asset is his writing, and his words cast the starkest shadows against a spare backdrop.” -

“At a point in time when most acoustic guitar-strumming troubadours are tricking up their tunes with neo-psychedelic swirls, electronic frippery, or some other such device, Pug plays it straight-ahead, with a delivery that brings to mind John Prine, and lyrics full of poetic but never overripe imagery.”

“Artist to watch in 2010.”

Get a free download of "The Sharpest Crown" from Joe Pug's new album, Messenger

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's self-titled album rated among 2009's best

Congrats to Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit for making many "Best of 2009" lists including these:
Blurt "#6 album of the year"
Magnet Magazine "Top Americana album"
Salt Lake Tribute "Top 10"
Boston Globe "Top 10"
New England Patriot Ledger "Top 10"
Slant Magazine "Best of 2009"
Twangville "Best of 2009"
Justin Townes Earle's "Top 10 of 2009"
Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News "Top 5 of 2009"
No Depression community "Best of 2009"
The Bird List "Best of 2009"
Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Album of the Year nominee

Lightning Rod Records signs Joe Pug - MESSENGER out 2/16

Joe Pug will release Messenger on February 16,2010 on Lightning Rod Records. Messenger is the long awaited follow-up to his highly acclaimed self-released EP Nation of Heat.
After playing over 200 shows, including runs with Steve Earle, M.Ward and Josh Ritter, Pug took to the studio to record his sophomore release. While Nation of Heat may have earned him the title of talent to watch, Messenger solidifies his spot among the finest songwriters of his generation. Pug’s soulful voice and lyrical vignettes guide listeners through the album’s ten tracks, none of which retreat to the comfortable and familiar haven where typical singer-songwriters rest.
With Messenger, Pug explores new territory, sneaking pedal steel guitar into “The Sharpest Crown” and backing “The Door is Always Open” with a powerhouse rhythm section. The album’s subtle beauty is showcased through the supporting cast Pug uses to expand his sound. However, he does not let his solo charm escape the album. Songs like “Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)” and “Unsophisticated Heart” make it obvious that Pug is still master of the-guy-and-the-guitar song.
Lightning Rod Records is a Nashville-based independent record label that is also home to James McMurtry and Jason Isbell. In North America, the label is distributed by Thirty Tigers/RED.
Two tracks will be available for preview at
Track listing for Messenger:
1. Messenger
2. How Good You Are
3. Not So Sure
4. The Sharpest Crown
5. The Door Was Always Open
6. The First Time I Saw You
7. Unsophisticated Heart
8. Disguised as Someone Else
9. Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)
10. Speak Plainly, Diana

In preparation for his February 2010 release, Pug will hit the road supporting Justin Townes Earle, kicking off in San Diego on February 9th. Full list of dates listed below.
12/02/09 Roma CircoloDegliArtisti Rome, Italy
12/03/09 StradeBlu Festival at TeatroMasini Faenza, Italy
12/06/09 Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Glasgow, Scotland
12/07/09 Perth Concert Hall Perth, Scotland
12/08/09 Aberdeen Music Hall Aberdeen, Scotland
12/10/09 Iverness Ironworks Iverness, Scotland
1/23/10 The Park Theater Winnipeg, MB
2/05/10 Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge, CO
2/09/10 The Loft San Diego, CA
2/11/10 The Echo Los Angeles, CA
2/12/10 The Crepe Place Santa Cruz, CA
2/13/10 Great American Music Hall San Francisco, CA
2/14/10 The Doug Fir Portland, OR
2/15/10 The Tractor Tavern Seattle, WA
2/16/10 The Biltmore Vancouver, BC
2/18/10 The State Room Salt Lake City, UT
2/19/10 The Bluebird Denver, CO**
2/20/10 The Sheridan Opera House Telluride, CO
2/23/10 The Mill Iowa City, IA
2/25/10 The Turf Club St. Paul, MN
2/26/10 High Noon Saloon Madison, WI
2/27/10 Lincoln Hall Chicago, IL**
2/28/10 The Magic Stick Detroit, MI
3/02/10 The Mohawk Buffalo, NY

**Denotes shows that will be co-bills with Justin Townes Earle

Lefsetz names "We Can't Make It Here" the Song of the Decade

Music industry pundit, Bob Lefsetz, named James McMurtry's "We Can't Make it Here" the Song of the Decade. Download a free MP3 of the song at the link below.

We Can't Make it Here MP3

New Video From Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit

James McMurtry 'Live in Europe' CD/DVD with Ian McLagan and Jon Dee Graham readied for Oct. 13

James McMurtry's recent studio albums, 2005's Childish Things and 2008's Just Us Kids, earned him formidable accolades. The Village Voice called him "a poet of the people." Stephen King, writing in Entertainment Weekly, pronounced him "the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation." Yet a lot of current McMurtry converts were introduced through the 2004 release Live in Aught-Three. Live albums aren't typically greeted with rave reviews, but McMurtry's rockin' treatments of songs like "Choctaw Bingo" and "Out Here in the Middle" in concert made an uncanny translation to record. The Austin Chronicle proclaimed, "This is no-frills, freak-flag rock. Turn it up!" PopMatters called it "a snapshot of where McMurtry is now, [marking him] as a legitimate inheritor of the Texas songwriting tradition." Now, on October 13, 2009, Lightning Rod Records will release Live in Europe, a document of McMurtry's first European tour, on which he was joined by keyboardist Ian McLagan and fellow Texas songwriting legend Jon Dee Graham. The set will be available as a CD with a bonus DVD, or as a deluxe vinyl LP package with a CD and DVD insert. In early 2009, James McMurtry and his trio traveled overseas to play their first European tour. The guys played for enthusiastic crowds in Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Scotland and Belgium. Joining the band on keyboards for the tour was the legendary Ian McLagan (who also played on McMurtry's latest studio album, Just Us Kids). The best recordings from the Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Geislingen, Germany concerts were combined to create Live in Europe. The album includes a bonus DVD featuring performances from the Amsterdam show. This marks the first time fans will be able to purchase video footage of McMurtry live in concert. The deluxe vinyl version includes inserted copies of the CD and DVD. Fellow Austin-based songwriter Jon Dee Graham opened the shows and joins the band on a version of his tune "Laredo" on the bonus DVD. The son of acclaimed author Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment), James grew up on a steady diet of Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff records. His first album, released in 1989, was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill. In 2004, McMurtry released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three on Compadre Records. 2005's Childish Things garnered some of the highest critical praise of McMurtry's career and spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006. In September 2006, Childish Things and "We Can't Make It Here" won the Americana Music Awards for album and song of the year, respectively. McMurtry received more Americana Music Award nominations for 2008's Just Us Kids. The album marked his highest Billboard 200 chart position in more than 19 years. The Washington Post noted McMurtry's live prowess: "Much attention is paid to James McMurtry's lyrics, and rightfully so: He creates a novel's worth of emotion and experience in four minutes of blisteringly stark couplets. What gets overlooked, however, is that he's an accomplished rock guitar player. At a sold-out Birchmere, the Austin-based artist was joined by drummer Daren Hess and bassist Ronnie Johnson in a set that demonstrated the raw power of wince-inducing imagery propelled by electric guitar. It was serious stuff, imparted by a singularly serious band." McMurtry will tour the U.S. and Europe this fall in support of the live album.
Track List:
Bayou Tortue
Just Us Kids
Hurricane Party
You'd a' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)
Fräulein O.
Ruby and Carlos
Freeway View

Bonus DVD:
Choctaw Bingo
You'd a' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)
Freeway View
We Can't Make It Here
Laredo (with Jon Dee Graham)
Too Long In The Wasteland

Jason Isbell on Daytrotter

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's Daytrotter session has been posted. Go to the link below and download live performances of "The Blue," "Seven-Mile Island," "The Last Song I Will Write," and "Streetlights."


Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit Receives Album of the Year Nom

Congrats to Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit whose self-titled album was nominated for Album of The Year at the 2009 Americana Music Association's Honors and Awards to be held September 17 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

Isbell Picks Top Ten Muscle Shoals Tracks

Jason Isbell wrote a feature about his hometown for The Guardian (Britain's third largest newspaper) where he chooses his top ten Muscle Shoals recordings. Check it the full story below.

The Guardian

Uncut raves about Jason Isbell's album

Uncut, one of the UK's premiere entertainment magazines, raved about Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit. Their FOUR STAR review declared it a "terrific album" that "redeems (Isbell's) promise in spectacular fashion."

Jason Isbell on the cover of the new Blurt Magazine

Jason Isbell and a few other artists including Beirut and Bob Mould will be featured on the cover of the first print issue of Blurt Magazine. The issue includes 10 out of 10 star review of the album.


Jason Isbell's album debuts on three Billboard charts!

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's self-titled album debuted on THREE charts in Billboard Magazine. Numbers below:

#132 on Top 200 chart
#17 Independent chart
#3 Heatseeker chart

New album from Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit available now!

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's new self-titled album is available now on CD, LP w/ CD insert, and digital download.

"Isbell is an invigorating songwriter and one of the better lyricists of his generation." - Pitchfork Media

"Four stars." - SPIN Magazine

"...not to be missed." - Rolling Stone

"Four stars." - All Music Guide

"One hell of a record." - The Tripwire

"Four stars." - Creative Loafing

"It should be illegal for someone as young as Isbell to deftly pack so much world-weariness into a song." - Birmingham News

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit receive FOUR STAR review in Spin

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, 'Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit'
(Lightning Rod)
Ex-trucker wades through doomed romance, booze.
By David Peisner
Southern rock is a minefield of rebel flags, drinking songs, and dudes yelling "Free Bird!" With Drive-By Truckers, singer-guitarist Jason Isbell learned to embrace some of those clichés; on his gritty, vibrant second solo album, he begins to transcend them. "However Long" personalizes working-class disaffection into a defiant anthem; stormy rocker "Soldiers Get Strange" is almost certainly the best tune ever written about post-traumatic stress disorder; and multiple tales of warm, lonely barrooms and the warm, lonely relationships they breed uncover new truths while traversing well-trod emotional terrain.

Stream Jason Isbell's new album on Rhapsody

Beginning February 11, you can stream Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's new album in its entirety on Rhapsody's website. Check out the link below.


Free download of Jason Isbell's "Seven-Mile Island"

Click on the link below to download a free mp3 of "Seven-Mile Island" from Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's new self-titled album. The album will be available on CD and double-vinyl with CD insert on February 17.


Pre-order autographed Jason Isbell albums from Waterloo Records

Autographed copies of Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's self-titled new album are available exclusively at Waterloo Records' website. Click on the link below to order the album on CD or special edition double-vinyl with CD insert.



JUST US KIDS makes it on a wide variety of "Best of 2008" lists

James McMurtry's latest album showed up on a wide array of Best of 2008 lists. USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Blurt Online, and the Philadelphia Inquirer are some of the publications that laud Just Us Kids as one of the year's foremost releases. Here is a partial list of the reviews:

USA Today - Ken Barnes' #2 album of the year
Washington Post - #2 album of the year
Knoxville News Sentinel - #1 album of the year
Entertainment Weekly - Stephen King's #3 album of the year
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - #4 album of the year
Baltimore City Paper - Geoffrey Himes' #1 album of the year
Austin American Statesman - #2 album of the year
Atlanta Journal-Constitution - #4 album of the year
Austin Chronicle
Blurt Online - #11 album of the year
Lexington Herald Leader
Popmatters - #5 Americana Album of the year
Daily Mirror (London)
Philadelphia Inquirer

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit to release new album in 2009

Muscle Shoals, AL - Lightning Rod Records will release Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's eponymous album on February 17, 2009. Isbell is a former member of the Drive-By Truckers and this is his second solo release (his first release with his band The 400 Unit). The 400 Unit is Derry deBorja (keyboards), Jimbo Hart (bass) and Browan Lollar (guitar). Matt Pence (Centro-matic/South San Gabriel) lends his talents as co-producer, drummer and engineer.

The album was co-produced by Isbell and The 400 Unit with Matt Pence. "I want it to be known that it's a band record," says Isbell. "I want it to be known that it's something we all did together. Even though I wrote the songs, it was a very inclusive project." Isbell has posted the new track, "Seven-Mile Island," on the band's MySpace site.

The album was recorded at the renowned FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. Isbell, who Details Magazine calls "one of America's best young songwriters," is following in the tradition of American songwriters who have recorded in North Alabama. Much like Arthur Alexander, Eddie Hinton and Spooner Oldham, Isbell mixes a soulful vocal style with songs that are passionate and unrepentant in their sense of place and direct in their stubborn Southerness.

Isbell and The 400 Unit have played over 200 dates since the release of Sirens Of The Ditch (including All Points West, Voodoo Music Experience and WXPN Freedom Fest) and will announce the first round of their 2009 dates soon.

This is the second release for Nashville-based Lightning Rod Records whose US distribution and marketing is handled by Thirty Tigers/RED.
1. Seven-Mile Island
2. Sunstroke
3. Good
4. Cigarettes and Wine
5. However Long
6. Coda
7. The Blue
8. No Choice in the Matter
9. Soldiers Get Strange
10. Streetlights
11. The Last Song I Will Write

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's MySpace site.

James McMurtry offers live version of "We Can't Make It Here" for free

Just before the 2004 Presidential Election, James McMurtry gave away a free download of his state of the union anthem, "We Can't Make It Here." The song struck a chord with the public and went on to win Song of the Year at the Americana Music Honors and Awards. Author Stephen King described it as the "best American protest song since 'Masters of War'" in his Entertainment Weekly column. On the brink of the 2008 election, McMurtry is giving away a previously unreleased live version of "We Can't Make It Here" from his 2008 concert at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY.

Click on the link below to access the free MP3:

McMurtry ringtones available now!

To get your ringtone, pick the code of your favorite James McMurtry song and text it to "66555".

"Cheney's Toy" - CHENEY
"Just Us Kids" - JUSTUS
"Hurricane Party" - PARTY
"Bayou Tortous" - TURTLE

(Click here for ringtone specs. Sony Music Box)

Winner announced for James McMurtry Video Contest

Congratulations to Michael Myles for winning the James McMurtry Video Contest. Fans were encouraged to use the free "Cheney's Toy" mp3 to create their own videos and post them online. Mr. Myles received an 8 gig iPod Nano for his winning video (which can be seen on YouTube).

Some praise for JUST US KIDS

“There's a good chance that McMurtry's Just Us Kids will be the best album of 2008.” —WASHINGTON POST
"his new album, "Just Us Kids" (Lightning Rod), which could justifiably be described as the best collection of literary songs in several years." - LOS ANGELES TIMES
"A definite contender when those Best Of The Year polls get underway." - MOJO
“The new James McMurtry album Just Us Kids isn’t good, it’s terrific. Simply outstanding. My early candidate for album of the year..." - ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

James McMurtry featured in Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times ran a feature on James McMurtry in their Sunday edition. Click on the link below to check it out.

Click here to read

James McMurtry sweeps nominations for Americana Honors & Awards

James McMurtry was nominated in three categories for the 2008 Americana Honors and Awards: “Best Artist,” “Best Album” and “Best Song.” The album is his current CD, Just Us Kids, on Lightning Rod Records, and the song is the controversial “Cheney’s Toy.” McMurtry is tied for most nominations. The awards show will be held on September 18 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

McMurtry featured in The Washington Post

The Washington Post's piece on James McMurtry features interviews with Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, Robert Earl Keen, and Jon Dee Graham. Click here to read.

Click here to read

McMurtry discusses record stores on NPR's All Things Considered

To celebrate Record Store Day, NPR's All Things Considered invited James McMurtry to talk about his experiences in record stores. You can listen to James' account here.

JUST US KIDS debuts on FOUR Billboard Charts!

James McMurtry's new album, JUST US KIDS, debuts in Billboard Magazine on the following charts:
Heatseekers Chart #2
Tastemaker Chart #6
Indie Label Chart #18
Top 200 album sales chart #136

New James McMurtry t-shirts available now!

Go to the Lightning Rod Records store to check out the new James McMurtry t-shirts. All shirts are 100% cotton and made in America.

McMurtry blogs on Huffington Post

James McMurtry gives his thoughts on "Obama Euphoria" at the web's most prominent progressive site, The Huffington Post. Check it out by clicking the link below.

Huffington Post

Patterson Hood from DBT praises Just Us Kids

"Just Us Kids picks up right where Childish Things left off, finding him rightfully angry at the world around him. On first listen I already hear several instant classics. The entire second half is stunning. Love his writing and love his delivery. McMurtry might be the best topical writer performing right now and this finds him at his finest." - Patterson Hood / Drive-By Truckers

James McMurtry Offers Free mp3 Of New Political Song And Announces Make-Your-Own-Video Contest

Singer/songwriter James McMurtry is once again making a political statement through his music. On his new song "Cheney's Toy", McMurtry picks up where he left off with his controversial anthem "We Can't Make it Here." "Cheney's Toy" reminds us that the war in Iraq is still going on - with veiled references to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the stark image of a soldier who returned from the conflict, blind and brain damaged.

In order to make sure people get the message, McMurtry is giving away the song for free. Fans will be able to download the mp3 from McMurtry's MySpace page and Lightning Rod Records' website.

McMurtry and Lightning Rod Records are encouraging fans to use the free mp3 to create their own videos and post them online. McMurtry will choose the best videos and post them on his official MySpace page and website. If needed, fans can create videos using slideshow applications at Creators of each of the top five video creators will receive t-shirts and autographed copies of McMurtry's new album, Just Us Kids (in stores April 15, 2008). McMurtry's choice for the best overall video will also receive an 8GB Apple iPod nano with video capabilities. Fans can send links to their videos to .

James McMurtry's MySpace site.

More information.

Lightning Rod Records To Release New James McMurtry Album On Tax Day 2008

Lightning Rod Records will release singer/songwriter James McMurtry's new CD, titled Just Us Kids, on April 15, 2008. McMurtry's ninth album, which features 12 new songs, is a follow-up to 2005's critically acclaimed and award-winning project, Childish Things. McMurtry makes a strong political statement on Just Us Kids. Joining McMurtry are the C.C. Adcock, Jon Dee Graham, Ian McLagan and Timbuk3's pat mAcdonald.