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Top Tunes in September

Our Favorite New Music from the Blue Ridge and Beyond

Every month our editors curate a playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In September we’re highlighting new tunes from Dawes, G. Love, and a new indie rock project from Sarah Shook.

Dawes “Ghost in the Machine”

The members of folk-rock mainstays Dawes expand their sonic palette with this rumbling blues jammer from the new album “Misadventures of Doomscroller.” Clocking in at just over six minutes, “Ghost in the Machine” features hard-charging guitar riffs and an extended percussion break, reminiscent of the early 70s psychedelic explorations of the Allman Brothers Band. It matches the energy of a Dawes live show, which always features dynamic rock improvisation. – J.F. 

Sunny Sweeny “Easy As Hello”

If you lament where country music has wandered these last many years, yet you still seek a masterful country song, simply turn to Sunny Sweeny. “Easy As Hello” is a rowdy rocker that chronicles the doubt and pain that manifest after a relationship ends and the stark difference between the ease with which love starts and the hardship of its finality. Sweeny certainly spun the pain of her own recent divorce into this one, proving yet again that beautiful art is often the result of dark times. – D.S.

Joe Pug “Hymn #35 (Revisited)”

Joe Pug’s 2007 EP “Nation of Heat” was a landmark release in the modern Americana movement. This summer Pug released a reimagined version of the stark acoustic record featuring reworked full-band electric arrangements that includes help from members of My Morning Jacket and Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit. “Hymn #35 (Revisited)” reboots the intimate acoustic original song with bombastic drums and colorful keyboards, brightening the literary confessions of Pug’s lyrics. – J.F

G. Love “Mississippi”

G. Love takes a trip down to the Delta in this guest-heavy track that combines his patented mix of fluid 90s hip-hop and traditional blues, with help from Speech of Arrested Development, R.L. Boyce, and Alvin Youngblood Hart. “Mississippi” is a dance-ready banger that updates a hypnotic juke joint groove with free-flowing rhymes and heavy guitar work. It comes from Love’s new album, “Philadelphia Mississippi,” which bridges the sounds of the South with those from the singer-songwriter’s home city in Pennsylvania. – J.F. 

Martha Spencer “Enchantress”

Martha Spencer’s musical roots are seemingly as old as the Appalachian Mountains themselves. Spencer, who hails from the mountains of southwest Virginia, grew up performing old time music with the Whitetop Mountain String Band, a family collective that dates back some 80 years. “Enchantress,” inspired by Spencer’s love of all things spooky and macabre, features her playful vocals set over a droning banjo and spirited fiddle runs. The contrast between Spencer’s alluring voice and the delicately ominous banjo is captivating.  – D.S.

Mightmare “Saturn Turns”

North Carolina’s Sarah Shook is best known for playing gritty country-punk songs with their band the Disarmers, but during pandemic isolation they leaned into a new indie-rock solo project, Mightmare. The first single from the upcoming album, “Cruel Liars” is a slice of murky and mysterious 90s alt-rock built around a pulsing beat and buzzy synth work. “Speed into the curve ‘cuz I’m looking for any old road I ain’t been down before,” Shook sings, with a chilly edge, emphasizing their sound’s refreshing unpredictability. – J.F. 

Rebeckah Todd “Realign”

By any measure, Rebeckah Todd’s cup of woe had filled to overflowing. The loss of her parents, a divorce, a health crisis, and the pandemic saw Todd take a three-year break from her music. “Realign,” the title track from her new album, signals her return, both to music and to the person she is supposed to be. Todd emerges like a phoenix in this anthem, triumphantly rising from the ashes of a life burned to the ground, and shaped, but not defined, by her struggles. – D.S.

David Beck “Miner’s Song”

With a lyric like, “If I ain’t got the diamond, give me the coal,” it’s easy to figure out songwriter David Beck’s take on perseverance. Imbued with a blue collar, hardscrabble perspective, “Miner’s Song” deftly combines Beck’s sonic vision, one where Texas troubadours and indie rock coalesce. Imagine a jam session with Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Thom Yorke, and Jim James riffing on each other’s songs. Beck personifies the spirit of the tenacious protagonist in “Miner’s Song” with his willingness to boldly crash sonic worlds together. – D.S.

Cover Photo: Sarah Shook recently formed the new band Mightmare. Photo by Jillian Clark

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