Every month our editors curate a playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In March we’re highlighting new tunes from Fruit Bats, Leon III, and Buck Meek, plus an experimental banjo track from Chris Pandolfi of the Infamous Stringdusters. To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.
Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek embraces a laid-back country vibe on his new solo album, “Two Saviors.” Analog warmth radiates throughout the effort, which was recorded in an old Victorian house in New Orleans, as Meek ruminates on heartbreak in his reserved vocal style. In “Candle,” a song co-written with his Big Thief bandmate and ex-wife Adrianne Lenker, he recalls hazy memories of an old flame, while somber pedal steel perfectly accentuates the melancholic longing in his lyrics. —J.F
Fruit Bats leader Eric D. Johnson has been on a roll, following the radiant 2019 album “Gold Past Life” with last year’s acoustic reboot of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream.” This month he’ll return with more new music, dropping Fruit Bats’ eighth studio effort “The Pet Parade” on March 5. Lead single “Holy Rose” is a dreamy psych-pop tune that builds with embellished guitar effects and powerful cinematic soundscapes. Johnson wrote the song about devastating wildfires that roared through the northern California area where his wife grew up, and accordingly it sounds influenced by the forces of nature. —J.F.
When not touring with the Infamous Stringdusters, banjoist Chris Pandolfi can be found in his home studio, tinkering with sounds under the moniker Trad Plus. “Cloud Valley,” from the new release “Trance Banjo,” is an acoustic adventure, driven by Pandolfi’s complex banjo runs, fiddle work by Stuart Duncan, and the drumming of Nick Falk. A microcosm of the entire album, “Cloud Valley” combines traditional instruments with that dash of wizardry found in Pandolfi’s homegrown solo projects. —D.S.
Tucker Riggleman & the Cheap Dates
“Storming in Memphis”
A veteran of Appalachian DIY rock bands Prison Book Club and the Demon Beat, West Virginia’s Tucker Riggleman is now fronting his own outfit, which just released the new album “Alive and Dying Fast.” The standout “Storming in Memphis” is a jangly road ode that recalls the work of twang-rock predecessors like Drivin N Cryin and the Bottle Rockets. It’s a slice of old school alt-country, with Riggleman rattling off mundane ways to pass time on the highway, but he ultimately sounds like a guy who can’t wait to get back to the party, singing, “You’ve only got four directions, so pick a dive bar and hammer down.” —J.F.
“The Winemaker’s Daughter”
Just a couple years ago, Will Overman considered giving up music. Thankfully, he didn’t, as “The Winemaker’s Daughter,” the title track from his new solo record, proves that there’s still too much good fruit left on the vine. Deeply personal, like the entirety of the new record, Overman’s love for his muse, his wife Janey, is unmistakable; amidst a chorus of banjo and mandolin, the challenges and joys of deepest love flourish. —D.S.
Leon III is the emerging psychedelic rock group led by Andy Stepanian and Mason Brent of long-running Virginia alt-country outfit Wrinkle Neck Mules. “Fly Migrator,” the lead track from the band’s newly released sophomore album, “Antlers in Velvet,” is a spacey journey that floats along for nearly 10 minutes, mixing free-form exploration with urgent guitar riffs. It sounds like a vintage Grateful Dead jam laced with authentic Southern grit, with Stepanian’s engaging, growly voice guiding the long strange trip. —J.F.
Kendall Street Company
Live recordings were scarce in 2020. Charlottesville’s Kendall Street Company serves up a rare gem with the release of “The Stories We Write For Ourselves (Live at FESTY),” a retelling of their latest album recorded live at a socially distanced pod show in October. “Go On,” the set opener, finds the jam-oriented quintet sitting heavy in the pocket, with contemplative strumming building to a heavy rock groove accented by trippy keys and horn solos. A reminder of what was and what’s coming, this jam leaves us pining for the full-scale return of live music. —D.S.
Like many musicians, Josh Daniel has been home a lot since last spring. But he’s kept busy. For over 300 straight days, Daniel has gone live with his Quarantine Sessions, performing for an online audience often reaching into the hundreds. “Waterloo,” from his new record “Home,” was recorded live on Daniel’s front porch. Showcasing his soulful tenor and percussive acoustic guitar, “Waterloo” is optimistic and heartfelt, much like the sessions from which it came. —D.S.
Cover photo: Leon III courtesy of Big Hassle Publicity