Nicholas Jamerson, 'NJ'
As one half of the minimalist duo Sundy Best – two guys with a guitar and a cajón – Nicholas Jamerson did a helluva lot with very little, thanks to a molasses-thick voice and a knack for writing brutally honest songs like the can't-outrun-your-roots ballad "Smoking Gun." On his first-ever solo album, the indie released NJ, he spreads his wings, diving deep into jammy folk-country territory. Recorded live in Jamerson's native Prestonsburg, Kentucky, with a rotating roster of musician buddies, the album is a postcard from his corner of the Bluegrass State: the harmonica-heavy "Riverbank" is all lazy-day nostalgia, while the self-aware "Let It Go for a While" realizes there's no place like home. The standout, though, is "Veteran's Day," the true tale of his carpenter granddaddy who taught local prisoners the trade. It's the satisfying kind of greasy country funk that wouldn't sound out of place on Shotgun Willie. Joseph Hudak