Vivascene Country/Americana Playlist

A diverse collection of country and country-tinged Americana songs from a stellar collection of artists.



“My music is a kind of roux, or mixture of rock, country, blues and R&B. My musical philosophy is to make music from the heart.” ~ Nelson Blanchard

“I find inspiration all around me. I try to make my music representative of myself and my generation. I love music of nearly all genres!” ~ Nelson Blanchard

“Nelson Blanchard’s first solo recording after a lifetime in music was brilliantly produced by Dan Tyler and David Hyde. The diversity of genres on the album securely maintains the listener’s interest throughout. Blanchard is an excellent songwriter, and all eleven songs are winners, with his friends and musical guests providing stout support.

“I am very thankful to be working with David Hyde on my first solo project. David has a gift to draw out one’s creativity, and the patience of Job. David is also a very intelligent and knowledgeable musician. He’s a walking encyclopedia of music history, and just history period. It’s really cool when you get to work with cats you’ve respected as a young musician. I am blessed to live in a city with such musical diversity, and great musicians. God bless New Orleans Musicians! ~ Nelson Blanchard

Grammy award winning Texas based producer, session player, musician, and Austin City Limits Hall of Fame member, Lloyd Maines makes an awesome guest appearance on steel guitar on “(I’m Not Just) Anybody’s Fool.” That weeping instrument bestows a country feel with Blanchard’s vocal being warm as Southern hospitality.  

Blanchard’s organ smoothly guides the pretty melody along, with David Grissom’s guitar lead at the break providing an example of restrained excellence. I can visualize this song emanating from the corner tavern jukebox while couples dance in romantic embraces. The music from Nelson Blanchard’s heart certainly touches my own.

   (I’m Not Just) Anybody’s Fool 

Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards – Nelson Blanchard

Steel Guitar – Lloyd Maines 

Guitar – David Grissom 

Bass Guitar – David Hyde 

Drums – Eddie Bayers



Donna Herula is a Chicago-born blues singer, songwriter, and slide guitarist that has a passion for playing multiple genres of Americana. Traditional Delta and Country Blues, early Chicago Blues, Folk, and Roots music all fit snugly in her wheelhouse. By the use of electrified resonator guitars, her sound combines her love for the authentic music of the Deep South and Chicago with her love of blues guitar improvisation. Her acute songwriting pays tribute to these traditions while creating fresh, contemporary perspectives.

“Lucinda Williams is one of my songwriting inspirations. When you think of blues, I guess I’m thinking of a broader perspective, like more of roots music or maybe Americana. I only had three covers on Bang at the Door: Bukka White, Blind Willie Johnson, who is really a great slide player as well, and Lucinda Williams. She is a great songwriter; kind of a country blues type.

“It’s a softer, kind of more of a bad, beautiful slide guitar playing. I love the song, and my husband sings it very well, and we do a really good job when we play the song out at festivals. So, I just wanted to kind of tip my hat to the importance of songwriting, and what Lucinda Williams does with her songwriting.” ~ Donna Herula  

Donna Hercula provided a brilliant cover of “Jackson,” a Lucinda Williams song from the highly acclaimed Car Wheels on a Gravel Road release. As Donna stated above, her husband Tony Nardiello sings it very well, and her harmonizing gives it a folky feel, not unlike Peter, Paul and Mary. The beautiful guitar takes it on down home, and pays tribute to Johnny Lee Shell’s Dobro on the Lucinda original.

BOB DYLAN ~ from the album SHOT OF LOVE


“Heart Of Mine” is a song from Dylan’s vastly underrated Shot Of Love, released in 1981. This album was the third release of Dylan’s so-called “Christian Trilogy.” The first was Slow Train Coming in 1979. His Saved LP followed in 1980. All three releases were split with some songs rock, and some secular. Critics have always been split on the album’s merits. Dylan himself has said it is one of his favourites.

Ringo Starr came in to play drums on the song. Dylan was six hours late on the day they were supposed to record, so the band horsed around in his absence. They had trouble getting things going, so engineer Chuck Plotkin jumped on the drum set, mostly just messing around. But, as soon as Plotkin started playing, Starr, ever-humble despite his Beatles status, yelled, “There! That! That’s the feel of this song! So you stay there, and I’ll play the other ones!”

“[‘Heart of Mine’] was done in a bunch of different ways, but I chose for some reason a particularly funky version of that – and it’s really scattered. It’s not as good as some of the other versions, but I chose it because Ringo and Ronnie Wood played on it, and we did it in like ten minutes.” ~ Bob Dylan

By the time all was said and done, the song was mixed more than 70 times. Donald “Duck” Dunn of Stax Records fame played bass on the song. 

The only place this song charted was in Norway, where it made #8.  

Heart Of Mine – personnel 

  Vocals, Piano – Bob Dylan

  Vocals – Clydie King

  Guitar – Ron Wood

  Guitar – Steve Ripley

  Keyboards – Benmont Tench 

  Drums, Organ – Wm. “Smitty” Smith

  Drums, Piano– Chuck Plotkin

  Drums [Tom Tom] – Ringo Starr

  Piano – Carl Pickhardt 

  Bass – Donald “Duck” Dunn

  Saxophone – Steve Douglas

WILLIE NELSON ~ from the album THAT’S LIFE


“Frank didn’t worry about being behind the beat or in front of the beat – he could sing it either way, and that’s the feel you have to have.” ~ Willie Nelson

In 1966, Frank Sinatra released his version of “That’s Life,” written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon originally for Ray Charles. It would become one of Sinatra’s signature songs. Willie Nelson put his own jazzy spin on the classic with prominent accompaniment from coproducer and arranger Matt Rollings on piano and longtime Family Band member Mickey Raphael on harmonica.

“Though he [Frank Sinatra] was a million miles from western swing, he had a sweet swing of his own. There was a tenderness to his voice, a purity and ease of phrasing. When he sang the popular songs of the day, I marveled at the natural way he told the story. When he sang with trombonist Tommy Dorsey, I heard how he used his voice like an instrument. And, when Dorsey played his mellow trombone, I heard how he used his instrument like a voice.” ~ Willie Nelson, from ‘It’s a Long Story: My Life’

“That cat’s a blues singer. He can sing my stuff, but I don’t know if I can sing his.” ~ Frank Sinatra, referring to Willie Nelson

“There’s no way to make these songs better than what Sinatra did with them. But, you can do it different. What we were shooting for was to try to make it feel like Willie had lived the lyrics. When he sings them, he sings what they mean to him.” ~ Buddy Cannon, co-producer of That’s Life

That’s life

That’s what all the people say

You’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May

But I know I’m gonna change their tune

When I’m back on top, back on top in June

I said, “That’s life”

And as funny as it may seem

Some people get a big ol’ kick out of stompin’ on your dream

But I don’t let it, I don’t let it get me down

‘Cause this old world just keeps spinnin’ around



“The collaborative pairing resulting in a complete album by fabled country/alternative country superstars Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell finally came to fruition. The realization of this nearly 40 year old concept resulted in Old Yellow Moon on Nonesuch Records, a high quality recording that was worth the lengthy wait and matched the lofty expectations. The release featured the duo’s superlative vocals with a “throw-back feel” to the days when the country-rock hybrid that is now called Americana sprang to life.

“Rodney Crowell would join Emmylou’s exceptional back-up band, The Hot Band, along with various significant artists such as guitar legend James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, John Ware, Hank DeVito, Emory Gordy, and on occasion Albert Lee, and Vince Gill. It is alleged that Warner Brothers signed Emmylou on the condition that Brian Ahern produce her album, and then later they requested that she “get a hot band,” which she indeed did. Burton, Gordy, Gill, and Hardin make guest appearances on Old Yellow Moon, along with many other great musicians of note, with three of Hank DeVito’s compositions residing among the twelve songs on Old Yellow Moon.

“DeVito’s “Hanging Up My Heart” robustly opens Old Yellow Moon with a chuggin’ mid-tempo hard country rhythm dynamically spurred on by Emory Gordy’s bass, Ware’s drums, Burton’s guitar, and potent Hammond B-3 organ courtesy of Bill Payne (Little Feat). Emmylou sassily handles the lead vocals with a slight assist from Vince Gill on back-up vocals. A tasty steel guitar break mid-song by Tommy (Waco) Spurlock is coupled with James Burton’s fine interaction. Back in 1983 this song was the title track of Sissy Spacek’s lone foray into country music, skillfully produced by Crowell, coming after her Oscar-winning success in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter.” ~ RP / Vivascene 



Mark Levon Helm was an American rock icon. The multi-instrumentalist rose to prominence as the drummer and vocalist for The Band. Levon was known for his raw and rootsy Arkansas country accented voice that could send chills up your spine.

“If it doesn’t come from your heart, music just doesn’t work.” ~ Levon Helm

“There is something about Levon Helm’s voice that is contained in all of our voices. It is ageless, timeless and has no race. He can sing with such depth and emotion, but he can also convey a good-old fun-time growl.” ~ Jim James

I’ll be lifted up to the clouds

On the wings of angels

There’s only flesh and bones

In the ground

Where my troubles will stay

SON VOLT ~ from the album TRACE


When the fine alt-country band Uncle Tupelo split into Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco and Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn’s Son Volt, like many others I thought that Wilco would be the better band. But, to my surprise, Son Volt’s 1995 debut release Trace proved to be a treat from start to finish.  

The band released “Drown” as a single and “Windfall” became very popular on college radio. A favorite of mine from that release was a cover song. In 1974, after leaving Faces, Ron Wood wrote “Mystifies Me,” and released it on his solo, I’ve Got My Own Album To Do.’ I’ve been a fan of Ronnie’s vocals: though a bit rough, they are always sincerely felt. He does a fine job on this melancholy song, but to me, Jay Farrar knocked it out of the park. 



“Music has the healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.” ~ Elton John 

Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection is a studio album loosely based on prairie, country and western /Americana themes. In my opinion, it works best when played in sides, or as a whole. By themselves the songs are strong enough, but the fine sequencing works in a “sum of the parts” formula. 

Tumbleweed Connection was recorded at Trident Studios, London, England in March 1970, and released in October 1970 in the United Kingdom and January 1971 in the United States. 

The name “Amoreena” implies love, as “Amor” signifies love in many languages. Lyricist Bernie Taupin suggested that Ray Williams, an early manager to himself and Elton, name his future daughter Amoreena. Williams did, and Taupin wrote the song using her name. Taupin’s lyrics paint adoring images of a lusty country girl in a pastoral setting. Taupin described “Amoreena” as a “bawdy love song.”


   Piano, Vocal – Elton John

   Lead Guitar – Caleb Quaye

   Bass Guitar – Dee Murray

   Drums – Nigel Olsson

Lately I’ve been thinking how much I miss my lady Amoreena’s in the cornfield brightening the daybreak 

Living like a lusty flower, running through the grass for hours 

Rolling through the hay like a puppy child



Trevor Sewell hails from North East England and he is a multi-award winning composer, musician, engineer, and record producer; garnering awards in both the UK and USA. He began his career as a session musician, but has now recorded six solo releases, as per his website, since his EP debut in 2010.

Trevor Sewell’s outstanding release in 2017 was entitled Calling Nashville – An Americana Adventure, and it is wonderful in every possible way. It is a record crafted with integrity, ingenuity, and love by everyone involved and produced by Geoff Wilbourn.  

“It was a truly amazing experience working with the Nashville musicians. They are all really top drawer. Geoff Wilbourn, who has worked with the likes of Johnny Winter, David Honeyboy Edwards and Robben Ford, really pulled the whole thing together.” ~ Trevor Sewell

The opening track, “Some Day,” shows Trevor rocking on some searing electric guitar. Kellen Michael Wenrich provides violin sparks as he plays with the fierceness of the Devil playing on his fiddle of gold. Wenrich employs varying styles that are a blend of Papa John Creach (Hot Tuna, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship), Jerry Goodman (The Flock, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs): and most closely on this song a heavy tinge of country music similar to Mark O’Connor. Sewell exploits a grit filled lead vocal treatment, and the background singers are divine in their repeated chanting of the words “Some Day” in the chorus. The lyrics are crucial to the composition, as they are on the entire album. The essence can be distilled into the humanitarian principle sometimes known as the golden rule: “We got to treat each other right.” The optimistic sermon he proclaims hits home hard, and hopefully, like the lyrics state “Someday we’re gonna start again; and treat each other right.”



Bobby Charles might be best known for his songwriting. He wrote “Walking to New Orleans,” one of Fats Domino’s most beloved songs; “(I Don’t Know Why I Love You) But I Do,” an enduring classic by Frogman Henry; and “See You Later Alligator,” a smash for Bill Haley and the Comets at the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll.

Bobby Charles was the first white man signed to the Chess Records Label. His soulful Louisiana voice remains a singular treasure. Charles’ high quality musical blend of New Orleans R&B with an Americana bent was unique and satisfyingly supple. He pioneered the musical genre of “swamp rock.” I’ve seen his vocals referred to as “the stone-baked smoulder of fresh bread with the sleepy essence of summer blossom.”  

“He was the champion south Louisiana songwriter. Everybody had a favorite Bobby Charles song. He had the gift.” ~ Sonny Landreth

“Last Train To Memphis,” a Bobby Charles composition has a great Charles lead vocal and key contributions from Sonny Landreth on slide guitar and Delbert McClinton on harp and backing vocals. The train just choogles on down the track on this great song that perhaps is best know to many from the rendition from The Band. 

Last Train To Memphis – personnel 

   Vocals – Bobby Charles

   Slide Guitar – Sonny Landreth

   Acoustic Guitar – Sam Broussard

   Harmonica, Backing Vocals – Delbert McClinton

   Keyboards – Phil Chandler

   Bass – David Hyde 

   Drums – David Peters 

k.d. lang  ~ from the album HYMNS OF THE 49th PARALLEL 


k.d. lang, a Canadian singer and songwriter, in 2004 paid tribute to some of her favourite Canadian songwriters.  She included two songs each from Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell.  Her rendition of Mitchell’s “A Case Of You” from ‘Blue,’ is a precious gemstone.

“There’s a reason 90 different people have covered ‘A Case of You.’ It’s because it’s one of the best songs you’ve ever heard. When she first sang it to me, it blew me away. But, this happened to me every time I heard a song of hers, man. She was my old lady for a year, and I would write something I thought was really good and she would come back with three things she wrote the night before, and they’d all be better.” ~ David Crosby

k.d.’s simple arrangement puts the spotlight on her own beautiful vocal, Joni’s fine lyrics, and the plaintive, yet pretty piano of Teddy Borowiecki.  k.d.’s enunciation is superior to Joni’s, giving the words added strength.  I miss Joni’s mountain dulcimer, but k.d.’s singing possesses an elegant charm that proves richly alluring.



The Vietnam War between North Vietnam and South Vietnam was fought from November 1, 1955 until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. The United States’ involvement began in March 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson made the decision to send U.S. combat forces into battle in Vietnam. It was referred to as the Vietnam “Skirmish,” but to those of the ages eligible to fight and die, it was assuredly a War.

The much beloved Merle Haggard has one of, if not the, best voices that has ever existed in all of country music. A true pioneer in the genre, Haggard released heaps of country classics throughout his legendary career. 

Way back in 1970, he released his hit “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” which proved to be a political take during the later Vietnam War years of the early 1970’s.

The song was written solely by Merle, and released as both the lead single, and the title track. It would become one of his signature songs, and it eventually peaked at #1 on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Songs less than two months after its release. Haggard had released “Okie From Muskogee” the previous year, which also was a #1 hit. 

Up to this point, country artists had remained pretty apolitical in terms of the content of their songs during the war. And, similar to “Okie,” it was controversial at the time.

It was a stark contrast to a lot of the rock songs and anti-war sentiments coming from bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival at the time, containing lyrics like this:

“I hear people talkin’ bad

About the way they have to live here in this country

Harpin’ on the wars we fight

An’ gripin’ ’bout the way things oughta be

An’ I don’t mind ’em switchin’ sides

An’ standin’ up for things they believe in

When they’re runnin’ down our country, man

They’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me”