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Our Favorite Songs in December

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 December we’re highlighting new tracks from Kurt Vile and Future Islands, plus a Christmas tune from My Morning Jacket.


“Since U Been Gone”

Most people know Toadies as one-hit wonders who gave us the creepy alt-rock earworm “Possum Kingdom” back in the mid-90s. But down in Texas the band is a long-running institution, and the group’s streaming numbers are bound to get a bump from this gritty, growly cover of Kelly Clarkson’s mainstream hit “Since U Been Gone.” The cut comes from a new compilation called Texas Wild, which features notable artists from the Lone Star State covering each other’s tunes to benefit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.  – J.F.

My Morning Jacket

“Feelin Sorry”

My Morning Jacket has a holiday song for those feeling a little lonely during the festive season. “Feeling sorry for myself on Christmas Day/ Oh why do the holidays always make me feel this way?,” sings front man Jim James, while some E Street Band-style sax deepens the mood of the melancholy rock tune. The new track comes from an expanded reissue of the band’s “Happy Holiday!” EP, which drops on November 24. – J.F. 

Daniel Donato 


Psychedelic songsmith Daniel Donato has made a name for himself by showcasing his prodigious guitar talents via a blend of improvisational jam rock and vintage honky tonk. Donato’s latest single, “Hi-Country,” is a vehicle designed for sonic exploration; after kicking off with some vintage guitar tones, the entire song is riff heavy, with guitar, organ, piano, and pedal steel all taking turns escalating the energy in this ode to getting out of the city and into wide open spaces. – D.S.

Kurt Vile

“Another good year for the roses”

Kurt Vile’s penchant for keeping a chill pace is intact on this easygoing track that features spacey textures and an overall warm ambiance. Vile delivers another dose of his slacker poetry in slow motion, as “Another good year for the roses” finds a hypnotic groove before spiraling into a psychedelic jam towards its conclusion. The song comes from “Back to Moon Beach,” which Vile is calling a new EP, but with nine tracks and a run time that crests 60 minutes, it’s more like a full-length album. It comes out November 17. – J.F. 

Nefesh Mountain

“More Love”

Nefesh Mountain, led by husband and wife duo Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg, had initially planned to release their cover of Tim O’Brien’s “More Love” in January. But as conditions deteriorated in the Middle East in October, the band, who identify as Jewish American, decided that now—instead of later—was when the world needed the message of love ingrained in the song. More love may sound to some a bit idealistic, but the beauty of the music reminds us what the world always needs more of. – D.S.

Future Islands

“The Tower”

Baltimore indie stalwarts Future Islands are back with a fresh batch of soul-stirring anthems. Front man Samuel T. Herring is in peak form on the “The Tower,” the first single from the group’s upcoming album “People Who Aren’t There Anymore,” which will be released on January 26. The record’s initially revealed tune has a relaxed downtempo flow that builds with waves of emotion thanks to Herring’s hair-raising vocal outbursts and the celestial synth touches that have long been the band’s calling card. – J.F. 

Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band

“I See Through Your Smile”

Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band’s first run only lasted two years, which included a win at the Rockygrass band competition in 2003 just months after forming, but the band’s legacy is still felt two decades later. Former members went on to join bands that are household names in the jamgrass world, including the Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, and Leftover Salmon, and longtime fans still clamor for their music. “I See Through Your Smile” is the first single from the band’s soon to be rereleased first record, “Cabin in the Hills,” and plans are in place for their first show east of Colorado in early 2024. – D.S.

The Band of Heathens 

“Heartless Year”

Earlier this year, Texan indie rockers the Band of Heathens released the critically acclaimed “Simple Things.” This month, the band has revisited those songs, stripping them down to their acoustic bones on the appropriately titled “Simpler Things.” On “Heartless Year,” the vocal interplay between Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist shines as subdued mandolin, guitar, and droning fiddle guide the song along. All about outlasting the hard times, when you don’t really know what that light at the end of the tunnel really is, this song is for everyone out there doing their best to get by. – D.S. 

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

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