Since the beginning of March I have had a lot of time to check out new music that has kept my sanity in check over the last few weeks. I usually listen to new music while driving to shows & festivals, where most of my time is occupied taking photographs. This pandemic has given me the opportunity to experience music from a lot of new & unfamiliar artists that have blown me away with music & songwriting. Below is a list of artists and their new recordings. Please check them out & hopefully you’ll find something new that will strike a chord in these confusing times.
Marcus King “El Dorado” – Released in late January, Marcus King delivered an album that many including myself considered to be one of the best from 2020. Produced by Dan Auerbach, “El Dorado” has a classic rock & bluesy feel reminiscent of the Allman Brothers, while Marcus’s voice has a uniquely soulful style of its own. “The Well” fiercely rocks out, while “Beautiful Stranger” offers a slow gospel feel. “Turn It Up” initially reminded me of Tony Joe White’s “Poke Salad Annie” that made me tap my toes to it’s infectious groove. “Whiskey River” has the feel of an old Waylon Jennings or Willie Nelson song. All the other songs stand out as well.
Dustbowl Revival “Is It You, Is It Me” – Also released at the end of January, “Is It You, Is It Me” showcases this talented sextet and the various styles of music each member brings to the group as a whole. The first cut, “Dreaming” offers up a lushy upbeat yet poppy feel that warms your soul. With it’s opening whistling & raunchy trombone sound, “Enemy” reminds us all of someone we know with the line: “I could never be your enemy, but now I just can’t be your friend”. Zach Lupetin & Liz Beebe harmonize beautifully together on “I Wake Up”. Dustbowl Revival’s sound is unique due to the utilization of the trombone, trumpet & violin within the band & the different genres of music that they touch on with this record.
Della Mae “Headlight” – To me, the title track “Headlight” encourages me to stand up to what’s wrong & doing what’s right. “Change” has a bluesy gospel feel & “I Like It When You’re Home” is upbeat yet folksy. “Wild One” delivers a gritty swampy groove that gets your feet stomping. “Peg Monster” highlights the bluegrass instrumentation & background that each member of the band brings to the group. Every song on this CD is exceptional. Lead vocalist, Celia Woodsmith puts her heart & emotions into each song, which really shines in their live performances.
Fireside Collective “Elements” – Released on March 20, “Elements” is a 14 track collection of songs that has a base in bluegrass but also encompasses rock, funk & other danceable grooves. Based out of Asheville, NC & produced by Travis Book (infamous Stringdusters), Fireside Collective opens & closes the record with “Winding Road” & “Winding Road Reprise” & every song in between showcases their tremendous musical talent & songwriting Skills. Songs like “Done Deal”, “Bring It On Home”, “Waiting For Tennessee” & “She Was An Angel” are among the stellar songs that have that familiar traditional sound, while “Night Sky From Here” highlights the band’s instrumental skills as they push the boundaries of bluegrass.
Nathaniel Rateliff “And It’s Still Alright” – I first became familiar with Nathaniel Rateliff from his 2018 release, “Tearing At The Seams”. “And It’s Still Alright”, the title track from his newest release, evokes an optimism that we all could use right now. “Expecting To Lose” offers a glimpse at pessimism, while “Mavis” creates a spiritual feeling of love & hope. “You Need Me” is a sarcastic little lilt with a mellow groove that pokes fun at relationships.
Thomm Jutz “To Live In Two Worlds Volume 1” – This is a really interesting collection of music. Half the songs are bluegrass and the other half are done solo with only guitar & vocals. Thank you Mountain Home Music for this incredible set of music that I would have completely missed otherwise. Thomm takes stories of characters & events from the past and weaves them into songs that reminds you of the familiarity of yesteryear. The Opening track “Mill Town Blues” is about early country music pioneer Charlie Poole, “Hartford’s Bend” honors bluegrass innovator John Hartford & Jimmie Rodgers’s life is told in “Jimmie Rodgers Rode A Train”. All the songs are great. I can’t wait to hear what comes next for Thomm Jutz.
Surrender Hill “A Whole Lot Of Freedom” – Wow! Another great set of music that wasn’t on my radar. The husband & wife team of Robin Dean Salmon & Afton Seekins write original songs that seem so familiar & tell stories that seem so personal not only to them but whoever listens. The title track “A Whole Lot Of Freedom” opens the CD & has an infectious country/rock & roll groove reminiscent of Garth Brooks. “Carry On” makes me wonder where I heard it before, because it sounds so familiar. There are beautiful ballads including “Beautiful Wren” about the birth of their son & “Healing Song”, which has a positive feel especially in today’s world. “Badge Of A Punk Rock Band” has a folky toe-tapping groove, while “The Ballad Of Rebel Wingfield” nostalgically looks at a drug dealer who lives & dies by his own set of rules. All 18 tracks showcases the duo’s beautiful harmonizing vocals and are worth a listen.
Jess Jocoy “Such A Long Way” – Jess Jocoy is a relative newcomer to the Americana scene. Her crystalline voice draws you into a recording that portrays her songwriting prowess and tells stories you can visualize in your head. “Existential Crossroads”, “Castles Made Of Sand”, “Hallelujah” & “Long Way Home” are my favorite cuts & great examples of her unique way of spinning tales, whether it’s her stories or someone else.
I will be listening to much more new music & hope to share any music I find. Music Is live. Music Is Healing. It’s what gets me through every day while the world is in quarantine. What I have lots of right now is time to listen to music.
If you or your band has new music for me to review, please reply back to firstname.lastname@example.org.