From a folk revivalist to an emerging jazz-funk band, check out these new acts on the rise. It goes without saying that these artists will have limited performance options in the near future, so consider supporting them by purchasing a physical album.
Folk revivalist Tre Burt brings back the blaring harmonica, primitive acoustic picking, and craggy vocals of old-school protest heroes like Woody Guthrie and early-era Bob Dylan. And he became directly associated with another songwriting icon back in January, when he released his debut album, “Caught It from the Rye,” on the recently departed John Prine’s label Oh Boy Records. Throughout the effort Burt exudes plenty of Prine’s enlightening blue-collar sentiments in sparse songs like “What Good,” a country-blues meditation on the passing of time. But with his traditional delivery, he’s largely focused on singing about social ills, rebuking wealth inequality in the powerful “Undead God of War” and lamenting the country’s persisting divisiveness in “Only Sorrow Remains.”
This quintet from Richmond, Va., is a well-oiled machine, mixing jazz, funk, rock, and hip-hop into a seamless blend of high-energy groove music. The group has honed its sound through their well-reputed live throwdowns—sharing stage time with the likes of Kamasi Washington and Galactic—but with touring in limbo, earlier this fall they went ahead and released a new studio album, “#Kingbutch.” The record often goes retro, exploring the territory of Parliament Funkadelic and Herbie Hancock’s “Head Hunters,” and the space-soul jams also travel into the realm of 90s rap via the refreshing rhymes of MC Marcus “Tennishu” Tenney, who leads the hard-hitting title track. Fusion can be indulgent, but these guys flex their chops while taking it to an impressive level of fun.
Back in April, S.G. Goodman released a stellar debut album, “Old Time Feeling,” produced by fellow Kentuckian Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Like the Jacket’s early sound, Goodman blends Southern roots music with raw garage rock, but all of her songs are emphasized by her dynamic voice, which features a vibrant bluegrass warble that recalls the pioneering clarion earthiness of Hazel Dickens. On her new album, Goodman shares the struggles of growing up as a farmer’s daughter and coming out as a gay woman in the rural South, but she also carries a message of instilling positive change. In the title track, a gritty, distorted barn-burner, she sings, “The Southern state is a condition, it’s true/ I’ve got a little proposition for you/ Stick around and work your way through/ Be the change you hope to find.”
This emerging outfit from Charlottesville, Va., is a top prospect in a field of new young jam bands. Led by singer-songwriter Louis Smith, the quintet blends feel-good pop songcraft with experimental elements of psychedelic rock, and since forming in 2013 the group has gradually built a loyal fan following while sharing stages with the likes of Umphrey’s McGee and Leftover Salmon. Last month the band released “The Stories We Write for Ourselves,” a new studio album co-produced by Scott Gordon (Ringo Starr, Alanis Morissette). While “Go On” showcases the group’s instrumental prowess, with a hard-hitting, horn-driven breakdown, lead single “Lady in Green” resonates with the present moment, as Smith sings about overcoming adversity and looking forward to better days ahead.
Isaac Gibson—leader of up-and-coming southwestern Virginia outfit 49 Winchester—channels plenty of Chris Stapleton’s lived-in grit in “Everlasting Lover,” a twangy, homesick ballad that leads off the country-rock band’s third album, “III.” Throughout the effort, the group covers even more familiar ground that will please fans of Southern roots heroes like Tyler Childers and Drive-By Truckers, but there’s plenty of originality here, too. With his hearty voice, Gibson offers compelling takes on the rural grind in songs like “Hays, Kansas” and “Long Hard Life,” and in “The Road Home” he sings from the perspective a hard-working musician missing his better half. He’s probably wishing he could play that one for a rowdy bar crowd right about now.