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Our Favorite Songs in May

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 May we’re highlighting new tunes from Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Leftover Salmon.

The Reds, Pinks & Purples

“Too Late for An Early Grave”

Glen Donaldson, who records as The Reds, Pinks & Purples, has an anthem for the overworked and underpaid. “Too Late for An Early Grave” laments the malaise of the daily grind, but sonically this tune is anything but a slog, as Donaldson mines the old-school carefree sounds of the Cure and the Psychedelic Furs. The track comes from the new album “The Town That Cursed Your Name.” – J.F.

Leftover Salmon

 “Simple Twist of Fate”

Colorado’s Leftover Salmon helped pioneer a movement of jamgrass bands in the late 90s and early 2000s, but now the longstanding crew of nimble pickers is paying tribute to some of their own influences with the new covers album, “Grass Roots.” Here they offer an up-tempo take on Bob Dylan’s whimsical folk tune “Simple Twist of Fate,” first heard on the landmark LP “Blood on the Tracks.” Throughout the new album—out May 19—Salmon also cover tunes by the Grateful Dead and David Bromberg with help from a cast of friends that include Billy Strings and Oliver Wood. – J.F.

Alison Brown (featuring Steve Martin)

“Foggy Morning Breaking”

Alison Brown’s latest release represents the nexus of the genius of two banjo masters: Brown herself and acclaimed comedian/actor Steve Martin. Brown and Martin wrote this instrumental masterpiece together, playing contrasting banjo traditions both with and against each other, as Brown’s Scruggs-style rolls provide the counterpoint to Martin’s traditional clawhammer stylings. Also featured are bluegrass heavyweights Stuart Duncan on fiddle and Sierra Hull on mandolin, making this a must listen for bluegrass fans everywhere. – D.S.

Nicolas Jamerson 

“Holler Child”

Eastern Kentucky singer-songwriter Nicolas Jamerson first garnered national acclaim as one half of the country duo Sundy Best. Having moved on to a solo career, Jamerson is set to release his newest album “Peace Mountain” this month. “Holler Child” opens in a style reminiscent of Guy Clark, with just Jamerson and his guitar, before a full band swells behind him, with Jamerson offering an ode to that larger-than-life playground hero we all knew as a kid. Whimsical and tragic, the song ends on a powerful, nearly gospel note, as Jamerson sings wistfully of meeting up with his friend, gone too soon, somewhere in the hereafter. – D.S. 


“3D Country” 

Indie rockers Geese explore the weird and wild in this seven-minute epic that tells the tale of a cowboy who goes too hard on the psychedelics and has trouble finding his way back from his trip. Cameron Winter narrates with theatricality while the band punches out some country-tinged rock with gospel, call-and-response vocals. Then, to match the theme, the song goes completely off the rails towards fuzzy splendor, before peaking with a guitar-led crescendo. It’s the title track of a new album out June 23. – J.F. 

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

“Find Your People”

Tennessee tunesmith Drew Holcomb continues to build his catalog of upbeat anthems with this celebratory ode to true friends. “You got to find your people/The ones that make you feel whole/That won’t leave your side when you lose control,” Holcomb sings, backed by a stomp-and-clap rhythm and some front-porch banjo picking. The joyful track comes from the new album “Strangers No More,” which will be released on June 7. – J.F. 

The Milk Carton Kids

“All of the Time in the World to Kill”

Don’t take at face value the title track of The Milk Carton Kids’ latest release. Listen closely to the lyrics—a task so easy when Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale are singing—and you feel fully the weight of not taking things for granted, of living in the moment and not assuming tomorrow is a given. Served up within their always lush harmonies and delightfully spare instrumentation, Ryan and Pattengale plead for us to focus on what is important and let go of the things that distract us from purposeful living. – D.S.

Eilen Jewell

“Lethal Love”

Early in 2020, Eilen Jewell found herself in the mountains of Idaho, reeling from a dissolving marriage. Trying to make sense of her new reality, Jewell penned “Lethal Love,” a groovy track reminiscent of 1960s beach rock. Behind reverb-laden guitar, Eilen lays bare her hurt and healing and spins most eloquently the notion that love can be just as dangerous as it is wonderous. Jewell left her mountain solitude on the path to renewal with a collection of tunes that make up her new record, “Get Behind the Wheel,” which drops this month. – D.S. 

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

Cover photo: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors will release the new album “Strangers No More” on June 7. Photo by Ashtin Paige.

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