Every month our editors curate a playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In February we’re highlighting new tunes from Lucero, Langhorne Slim, and the Milk Carton Kids, plus the return of Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians, and Steve Earle’s tribute to his late son. To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.
Aaron Lee Tasjan
“Computer of Love”
Nashville tunesmith Aaron Lee Tasjan continues to view roots music through kaleidoscope eyes in “Computer of Love,” a trippy exploration of the disorienting nature of social media interactions delivered through an upbeat arrangement that mingles zany psychedelic folk with a dreamy rock hook. “My little avatar/I’ll never know who you are,” Tasjan sings in the chorus, which has an enchanting melody despite its cautionary message about disingenuous online personas. The track comes from his new album “Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!,” which was produced by Greg Lattimer and will be released February 5. — J.F.
The Milk Carton Kids
Few folk duos create evocative harmonies like the Milk Carton Kids. The duo, Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, deliver on “Michigan” from their new live recording, “Live From Lincoln Theatre.” A heartbreaking tale of soldiering on while shouldering the weight of the past, the song is deceptively simple in its structure. Just two guitars and two voices weave beauty and burden together, leaving the listener with a palpable sense of the narrator’s pain. It’s a familiar struggle bound to resonate with all who hear it. — D.S.
“When You Found Me”
Memphis roots-rock stalwarts Lucero went to the famed Sam Phillips Recording Studio in their hometown to record their tenth studio album, “When You Found Me,” which was released late January. The title track is a reserved, slow-burning detour from the band’s usual distorted charge. Among plaintive acoustic guitar lines, frontman Ben Nichols tempers his hearty growl and earnestly narrates a message of redemption following a long period of self-destruction. — J.F.
Indie-folk singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim gets candid about his mental health struggles throughout his latest album, “Strawberry Mansion,” which was released at the end of January. Slim wrote this jangly earworm following a titular episode, and although his tune’s melody is catchy and pleasant, there’s a vulnerable ache in his voice as he empathetically sings: “To my friends in the same position / I wish there was a cure / But I know that life’s worth living / It’s the only thing worth living for.” — J.F.
“Nothing From Nothing”
Don’t let the somber horns opening “Nothing From Nothing,” A.J. Croce’s take on the legendary Billy Preston’s soul jam, lull you to sleep. What follows is a rollicking ramble, with Croce’s artful piano and a spunky horn section driving this soulful roller coaster to crescendo after crescendo. Croce gives a glimpse into his private life at the piano on his latest record, “By Request,” delivering versions of seminal tunes by, among others, The Faces, Allen Toussaint, and The Beach Boys, that shaped the talents of this masterful pianist and vocalist. — D.S.
Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians
Edie Brickell went radio silent for over a decade. Now, she and her band are back with their second record in three years. “Hunter & The Dog Star” continues Brickell’s tradition of creating groovy, conscious, relevant songs. “My Power,” the first single, flows around a heavy, almost-ominous bass riff, wide-open electric guitar chords, and a percussive, organ-driven rapture, all the while punctuated by Brickell’s playful yet empowering vocals. It is, undeniably, a song for the new year, punctually arriving as we all look to reassert a little control over our own realities. — D.S.
Steve Earle and the Dukes
“Harlem River Blues”
Steve Earle memorializes his late son, fellow prolific songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who passed away last August, on his new album, “J.T.” In the fall, Steve and his longtime band the Dukes quickly recorded a batch of Justin’s best tunes, including a gritty, gospel-hued take on the younger Earle’s well-known staple “Harlem River Blues.” It’s a drifter’s anthem with a tragic ending, but the interpretation is celebratory and soulful; a fitting farewell to a troubled artist who leaves behind a prolific body of work. — J.F.
In The Pines
“Welcome To Your Mind”
Self-described neo-psych rockers In The Pines have a firm grip on the garage rock vibe on their latest single, “Welcome To Your Mind.” A mash-up of sixties era psychedelia and nineties grunge, this Cincinnati-based quintet drenches hallucinogenic, Billy Corgan-like vocals and a punchy backbeat with fuzzed out guitars. Their new record, “Slow Blink,” is out now on Soul Step Records, an Ohio-based indie label known for featuring noteworthy bands and amazing vinyl pressings. — D.S.
Cover photo: Langhorne Slim released his latest album, “Strawberry Mansion,” at the end of January. photo by Harvey Robinson