Close this search box.

Our Favorite Summer Jams

If you’re in search of fresh summer music, let your ears wander through Trail Mix, our monthly playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In July we’re highlighting new tunes from Wye Oak and the Wandering Hearts, plus South Carolina folk-rock outfit SUSTO’s take on a Rolling Stones classic. 

“Dead Flowers”

SUSTO, the folk-rock outfit led by singer-songwriter Justin Osborne, strips down on the new live album, “Rogue Acoustic,” which was recorded in the group’s hometown of Charleston, S.C. A highlight is a gritty cover of the Rolling Stones’ languid country tune “Dead Flowers,” which features Osborne singing alongside guest vocalist Hunter Park, who performs under the moniker She Returns From War. —J.F. 

Songs from the Road Band
“Amarillo Blue”

Songs from the Road Band is a new project featuring familiar faces from the Blue Ridge bluegrass scene. Led by bassist Charles Humphrey III (formerly of Steep Canyon Rangers) and mandolin picker Mark Schimick, the group is quickly gaining traction on the string band circuit, gigging regularly and releasing sporadic singles ahead of a full album this fall. “Amarillo Blue” is a classic breakup song with high, lonesome harmonies and nimble picking. Schimick takes lead vocals and wonders, like many itinerant musicians, why the call of the road is often stronger than the desire for a stable home. –J.F. 

Nathaniel Rateliff

You’d never know that Nathaniel Rateliff was singing to just 125 people, and not a sold out crowd of 9,000 plus, on this cut from his new live record. Recorded at Red Rocks in September of 2020 during a socially distanced/streamed tour, Rateliff certainly doesn’t let the circumstances impact his performance. Buoyed by mates from his touring band and a cadre of musician friends, Rateliff’s joy in playing live is evident as each chorus swells, surely delighting the lucky few who were in attendance. —D.S.

The Wandering Hearts

When you get a chance to record a tune written by Grammy winner Marty Stuart and his wife, Connie Smith, at the legendary Cash Cabin, you jump on it. On “Dreams,” the British trio of Chess Wiffin, Tara Wilcox, and AJ Dean Revington provide lush, celestial harmonies, and Stuart accompanies on both mandolin and guitar, creating an undeniably airy, vintage country ode to holding on to dreams and setting the course of one’s life by wild aspiration. —D.S.

Mike Cooley, Patterson Hood, Jason Isbell

On Father’s Day in 2014, Jason Isbell’s dad got a pretty incredible present. His son, joined by Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley—his former mates in Drive-By Truckers—performed “Outfit,” the longtime crowd favorite, during an intimate acoustic show at the Shoals Theatre in Florence, Alabama. The performance expresses the undeniable musical chemistry shared by the trio; Isbell and Hood’s harmonies ably capture the song’s emotion and Cooley’s understated acoustic lead runs add the perfect accents to what is arguably the best father/son song ever written. —D.S.

Sara Bug

Sara Bug has a delicate, whispery voice that calls to mind that of Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, with a bit more of a country drawl. Her new self-titled album features a blend of old-school twang and indie-rock edge, the latter exemplified on the standout track “Rosebank.” Fuzzy guitar work and a stomping tempo create a moody atmosphere for Bug to ruminate on how she copes with a sour heart. In this case it’s riding her bike as fast as she can down a familiar road, even though, as she sings, “it’s hard to cry on a bike.” —J.F. 

Wye Oak

You’d expect a song called “TNT” to eventually explode with sound, but the soothing summer music from the North Carolina duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack simmers in a mellow zone. In line with the gentle approach often found in Wasner’s solo project Flock of Dimes, the new standalone single is a meditation on the changing of seasons with Wasner’s voice floating amid swirling guitar and jazzy drums. The busy group also promised another new song is coming this summer. —J.F. 

The Rubinoos
“I Want Her So Bad”

The four members of The Rubinoos were still teenagers in 1976 when they walked into the CBS studios in San Francisco and laid down the 11 tracks that would become “The CBS Tapes.” Recorded live and loose, the reckless abandon with which these Bay Area power pop rockers played is evident on “I Want Her So Bad.” The vocals and guitar work are brash and the drums frenzied, proving yet again that the spirit of rock and roll is best captured in the bravado of the young. —D.S.  

To hear this summer music and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.

Share this post:

Discover more in the Blue Ridge:

Join our newsletter!

Subscribe to receive the latest from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine sent directly to your inbox.