For a healthy dose of folk rock, take a look at singer/songwriter JJ Baron’s "Brand New Stranger," released in 2005 by Rhody Records.
Baron’s got a voice with "that high lonesome sound that bluegrass music requires." The influences are there but the songs are more singer/songwriter folk and straightforward country. Although I prefer my country with more of a cynical twist, this is some good stuff. There are a few Dylan influences evident as well but then, who isn’t influenced by Dylan?
I just can’t stop playing the second track, "Dead Man’s Shoes." It’s got a softly wailing electric guitar, a bluesy beat, and some interesting lyrics. Couldn’t really tell you what it’s about specifically. A lot of things but, you know, it’s interesting.
There’s a beautiful duet ("Set Em Up Boys") with Slaid Cleaves whose accolades for Baron were a big selling point for me on this disc. (If you like the singer/songwriter genre and you haven’t checked out Cleaves, you’re really missing something special).
"Baby Let’s Go" rocks with a rhythm reminiscent of Dylan’s "Everything is Broken" and "Political World." But it’s all Baron’s own, accompanied by a jangly electric guitar driven by Ryan Fitzsimmons and a rumbly bass line courtesy of Tom Newman.
As for the bluegrass, you can hear it pretty plainly in the last track "Wildflower (A Song for June Carter)," penned in memoriam for Carter.
Baron comes from the tiny state of Rhode Island and is a mere 23 years old although his songwriting ability and his website both imply he is a much much older soul.
On "Brand New Stranger," Baron is assisted by a host of guest musicians: the aforementioned Slaid Cleaves, Buddy Cage (New Riders of the Purple Sage), Scott Murawski (Max Creek), Jim Weider (The Band), Stu Kimball (Bob Dylan), Steve Burke (Beaver Brown), and Bill Lacaille (Tombstone Blues). His regular band includes: Chris Brooks (pedal steel), Tom Newman (acoustic bass and bass guitar), and Jack Moore (drums).
The more I play this disc, the more I like it. Probably a pretty good sign.