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Our Favorite Songs in April

Best 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 April we’re highlighting new tunes from Bonny Light Horseman and Old 97’s.

Old 97’s 

 “Where the Road Goes”

Three decades deep, alt-country pioneers Old 97’s are still moving forward, releasing their 13th album “American Primitive” on April 5. First single “Where the Road Goes” finds lead singer Rhett Miller delivering what he calls a “spiritual travelogue,” as he reflects on places he’s been and, more broadly, some of the tough twists and turns life can take. The track features an appearance by Peter Buck of R.E.M. – J.F.  

St. Paul 


Paul Janeway exploded onto the scene twelve years ago as the front man for St. Paul & the Broken Bones. The golden voiced Janeway, whose pipes are reminiscent of vintage soul icons Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, found himself getting complacent, so his latest release, under the moniker St. Paul, finds him exploring new sonic territory. “Closer” is a disco trip, with Janeway’s powerful vocals narrating the demise of a relationship over funky keyboards and a dance hall beat. Fans of St. Paul should find this departure from those old soul sounds a groovy adventure. – D.S.

Bonny Light Horseman 

“When I Was Younger”

Call it a supergroup or call it a side project. At this point, it’s just great that Anais Mitchell, Josh Kaufman, and Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson keep coming back to this special collaboration. As Bonny Light Horseman, the three musicians make ethereal folk music highlighted by the stunning harmonies of Mitchell and Johnson. The group recently inked a deal with venerable indie label Jagjaguwar and a new full album is supposed to come later this year, but in the meantime they released this single, a jazzy exploration on the ennui that comes with the responsibility of getting older. – J.F.  

Magic Tuber String Band 

“Days of Longing”

This acoustic instrumental duo from Durham, N.C., gives old-time music a fresh, experimental update. “Days of Longing,” which comes from the newly released album “Needlewax,” is a fiddle-guitar duet that starts with a pleasant melody perfect for walking through an idyllic forest. But by the end, Courtney Werner and Evan Morgan spiral into a storm of cacophonous improv that evokes nature’s unpredictability. – J.F.  

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong 

“Feelin’ Fine”

Few bands exude such boundless enthusiasm and optimism in their music as do Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. The jam-funk quartet from Baltimore, Md., have a knack for penning catchy, riff-heavy singalongs that their avid fan base joyfully belts back to them when the band is on stage. “Feelin’ Fine” absolutely fits that mold, with intricate guitar harmonies set over a bouncy rhythm and soaring organ. Good vibes abound, and before the first listen is over you’ll be feeling just like the title suggests. – D.S

Cedric Burnside 


Grammy winner Cedric Burnside gets deeply introspective on “Closer,” reflecting intently on his personal journey, how he has been tested, and how his faith has both guided him successfully through life’s challenges while also offering redirection when he has strayed from the righteous path. Stripped down and intimate, this is another sterling example of Burnside’s hill country blues mastery; raw guitar and soulful vocals over a stripped-down rhythm section makes Burnside’s music as gripping as the honesty shared within. – D.S.

Cris Jacobs 

“Daughter, Daughter”

To be a parent is to knowingly push your children into a world both wonderful and forbidding, hopefully after offering them a healthy understanding of how to both seek joy and navigate fear. It’s this dichotomy that Cris Jacobs tackles in “Daughter, Daughter,” from “One of These Days,” his first record in five years. The anxious nature of the song is heightened by Jacobs’ gritty guitar playing and the lap steel work of special guest Jerry Douglas. Together, Jacobs and Douglas surround this lament with a foreboding spirit that every parent knows all too well. – D.S.

Aaron Lee Tasjan 

“The Drugs Did Me”

Nashville tunesmith Aaron Lee Tasjan is known for blending Americana with touches of free-range psychedelia, but he’s taking bigger leaps into studio experimentation on his new album “Stellar Evolution.” The record’s first single finds the now-sober singer-songwriter looking back on the pitfalls of excess through a woozy alt-rock track with skittish drums that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old-school Flaming Lips album. – J.F. 

To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.

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