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 October we’re highlighting new tunes from Explosions in the Sky and Wilco.
Explosions in the Sky
Despite the name of this single and their new album (“The End”), the members of post-rock heroes Explosions in the Sky insist they’re not breaking up. And frankly, “Moving On” doesn’t sound like something that would come from a group ready to call it quits, as the cathartic instrumental rock tune builds with layers of tension and release and ultimately crests with an anthemic, optimistic peak. It fits with the best of the band’s catalog, including the beloved tracks from the Friday Night Lights soundtrack. – J.F.
“The Village is Dead”
Greenwich Village just ain’t what it used to be, according to Jonathan Wilson. The folk-rocker and prolific producer (known for his work with Father John Misty and Dawes) laments what happens when the creative class gets priced out of vibrant cultural hubs in this track from his new album, “Eat the Worm.” Despite being bummed out by gentrification, Wilson keeps the song’s arrangement upbeat, with a vintage disco groove and sweeping strings carrying his rousing tribute to displaced artists. – J.F.
“Evening Star Supercharger”
The musical world was shocked by the 2010 suicide of Mark Linkous, the founder and multi-instrumental pulse of Sparklehorse. In 2009, not long before his death, Linkous recorded a set of tunes that have, until recently, been obsessed over by fans of the critically acclaimed artist. Released last month, the album features “Evening Star Supercharger,” a tune sublime in both melody and vocal delivery that showcases the genius of a songwriter who tragically left us too soon. – D.S.
Wilco can’t miss these days. After last year’s sprawling epic, “Cruel Country,” the band is back with yet another album, “Cousin,” which came out at the end of last month. The lead single has a comforting breeziness, even if it’s about losing favor with a lover. “I’m evicted from your heart/I deserve it,” sings Jeff Tweedy, as his hushed vocals get sun-kissed by Nels Cline’s shimmering guitar fills. The new album was produced by revered Welsh artist Cate Le Bon. – J.F.
“This Side of Sunshine”
For over a decade, Richmond’s Butcher Brown have been blending jazz, funk, and soul into their own style of cosmic “solar music,” which happens to be the title of their latest release. Fans of phonk and low-key instrumental grooves should be all over the band’s take on Roy Ayers’ seminal jazz/funk masterpiece “This Side of Sunshine.” The groove is smooth and laden with keys, horns, and a subtle melodious callback to Ayers’ vocals as the song draws to a close, making the song a perfect backdrop for most any sunny summertime pleasure. – D.S.
Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle
“Listen to the Radio”
Young bluegrass phenoms Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle honor Nanci Griffith with a heartfelt take on the late songwriter’s “Listen to the Radio.” Tuttle takes lead vocals on the earnest tune about music being an ever-present balm for loneliness, while Strings adds harmony vocals and fleet-fingered guitar runs. The cover comes from the new compilation More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith, which also features contributions from Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. Griffith, who won multiple Grammy Awards and had songs cut by the likes of Dolly Parton, passed away in 2021 at age 68. – J.F.
“Stop Giving Your Heart Away”
Cruz Contreras ventured into a solo career after stepping away from his band the Black Lillies in 2019. “Stop Giving Your Heart Away” is a strong offering from “Cosmico,” his debut solo release. With vocals delivered over an echoing, reverb-laden guitar line, Contreras beautifully captures the struggle between hope and sadness in a relationship bound for dissolution. Longtime fans will certainly be happy with this new music that has been some four years in the making. – D.S.
Lonesome Ace Stringband
“Praying For Rain”
Much of the United States’ eastern seaboard has been plagued by Canadian wildfires in recent months. Those fires, and the drought that exacerbated them, were a bit more immediate for bassist Max Malone. After relocating to rural Canada, Malone and his wife were confronted with an extended dry spell and blazing temperatures. Malone quickly penned “Praying For Rain,” using clawhammer banjo and fiddle and old time harmonies to plead for relief from the crippling heat and lack of rain. The desperation is palpable as Malone and his neighbors deal with the effects of a changing climate. – D.S.
Cover Photo: Wilco released the new album “Cousin” in late September. Photo by Peter Crosby