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 November we’re highlighting new tunes from Cat Power and Margo Cilker.
“I Remember Carolina”
Margo Cilker goes down memory lane in this standout track from her new album, “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” which came out in September. “I Remember Carolina” is a dusty slice of bouncy roots-rock, with lyrics that unfold like a travelogue of cross-country shenanigans. With saloon piano and twangy pedal steel setting the mood, Cilker offers playful road-trip recounts, including catching a Bob Dylan show and having the “best burger in Texas.” Things get crazy in Montana, as she sings: “Went on a bender in Bozeman, sobered up in Hamilton/Fell in love with a fisherman, but it was catch and release.” – J.F.
The National (featuring Rosanne Cash)
Indie giants The National dropped a big surprise in September, with the release of “Laugh Track,” the group’s second full-length album of the year. Like the spring-released “First Two Pages of Frankenstein,” the new effort is a guest-heavy affair, with appearances from Phoebe Bridgers and Bon Iver. There’s also this country-hued track featuring Rosanne Cash, who balances Matt Berninger’s brooding vulnerability with honeysuckle harmonies. – J.F.
“Dim Little Light”
In November of last year, John Moreland appeared at the Blue Room in Nashville for an intimate acoustic performance that Third Man Records recorded directly to acetate—a process that allows for no redos or overdubs—on a 1955 Scully lathe once owned by iconic R&B label King Records. This recording of “Dim Little Light” showcases what makes Moreland a genius songwriter, his rich tenor voice, and his delicate fingerpicking, bookended by the adulation of an appreciative crowd. – D.S.
“Ballad of a Thin Man”
Cat Power paid homage to Bob Dylan’s historic 1966 performance at Manchester Free Trade Hall by recreating the concert track for track at London’s Royal Albert Hall, long thought to be the site of the original recording due to a mislabeled bootleg. Her take on “Ballad of a Thin Man” is soulful and emotive, buoyed by soaring organ, piano, and guitar. The recreation is a fitting tribute to Dylan’s work and the original recording, where Dylan, to the ire of many, switched from acoustic to electric guitar—a choice that proved pivotal in American musical history. – D.S.
Another great cover to check out is country singer Jaime Wyatt’s chill version of the Grateful Dead’s “Althea.” Laidback and soulful with funky guitar vamps, the cut comes from Wyatt’s new studio album, which will be released on November 3. Album producer Adrian Quesada of the Black Pumas appears on the tune, a Dead staple originally found on the 1980 album “Wake of the Flood.” – J.F.
Shane Smith & The Saints
“The Greys Between”
“The Greys Between” from Shane Smith & The Saints marks just the third song that these red dirt country rockers from Texas have released in four years. The band burst into the national consciousness after being featured on the hit television show “Yellowstone.” Songs like “The Greys Between,” a gritty anthem heavy on punchy guitar and fiddle that’s all about finding that middle ground between the black and white or the wrong and the right, promise to keep them there. – D.S.
We Are Star Children
Central Virginia’s We Are Star Children specialize in adventurous indie pop, often incorporating celebratory horns and joyous harmonized choruses into uplifting performances. The band’s new standalone single leans into those elements with a cinematic edge, mining the mystique of spaghetti western film scores to guide a shadowy lyrical narrative. The group has a new full-length effort on tap for 2024. – J.F.
Low Water Bridge Band
“Sirens of the Shenandoah”
The inspiration for “Sirens of the Shenandoah” can be traced to a canoe trip on the song’s namesake river and a loquacious fox that, to the songwriter, called to mind the mythological sirens of old. This nefarious tale, just like the river, ebbs and flows, regularly shifting tempos. The band navigates these course changes deftly, spilling easily between the placid and furious as they roll from funky bass lines to roaring banjo and guitar runs on this stellar entry in the songbook of dark and eerie Appalachian ballads. – D.S.
To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.
Cover photo: Margo Cilker released her latest album, “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” in September. Photo by Jen Borst.