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 September we’re highlighting new tunes from Chris Stapleton and MJ Lenderman.
Chris Stapleton is back with his first fresh set of tunes since 2020. “White Horse” is the initial look at his new album, “Higher,” which comes out November 10 and continues his work with acclaimed producer Dave Cobb. It’s a brawny country-rock tune with old-school 70s guitar riffs and Stapleton pleading for a lover’s patience in his bluesy howl. For fans of his growing catalog, it’s another consistent winner. – J.F.
While we wait for a follow-up to Alexa Rose’s 2021 album “Headwaters,” the North Carolina singer-songwriter recently gave us a seasonally appropriate three-song EP, “Summer Break.” A highlight from the effort is this sparse acoustic take on Lucinda Williams’ “Passionate Kisses,” an Americana gem originally released in 1989 that was also made popular by Mary Chapin Carpenter in the early 90s. With just guitar and voice, Rose takes an approach much gentler than the rocking previous versions and accentuates the song’s timeless message of longing for true companionship. – J.F.
Travis Book (featuring Anders Beck and Jon Stickley)
“Long Lonesome Day”
After the pandemic arrived in early 2020, Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters invited friends to Asheville’s storied Grey Eagle for a combination of live performances and interviews that were streamed to music-starved fans. “Long Lonesome Day,” a Dusters’ staple, finds Book joined by Anders Beck and Jon Stickley, with whom he began playing music 20 years ago. Book’s vocals ring true, and the interplay between the three longtime friends offered listeners a musical respite from a world that had gone topsy turvy. – D.S.
“In Your Love”
Tyler Childers has a way of penning love songs that are darned near perfect. On “In Your Love,” Childers sings confidently to his muse, professing that no amount of time or adversity would deter their love. The earnestness in both Childers’ vocals and lyrics highlight the purity of the sentiment behind his songs; unlike so many other country stars, these are words that he has lived. As he showed on early offerings like “Lady May” and “All Your’n,” one cannot deny that Childers feels every single word he is singing here. – D.S.
On “Jolt,” longtime North Carolina songwriter David Wilcox offers a tongue-in-cheek take on our collective early morning habit of reaching into the ether for all the sordid headlines we can find via social or mainstream media; that the terror, paranoia, propaganda, and horror stories that command our attention are the jolt we need to get moving. His take on being victims of our own digital algorithms and digesting news from our own echo chambers is creepily spot on; with the omnipresent press for news, good or bad, living in a world of perpetual anxiety has become all too real. – D.S.
Charlie Faye & The Fanimals
“Milo Wears A Tutu”
Whimsical and breezy, “Milo Wears A Tutu” is a feel good doo wop offering from Charlie Faye, long a name known for her vintage Motown sounds. The song title is less than ambiguous; the protagonist, as a young man, blurs gender roles by playing with trucks while also wearing a pink tutu when he wants to dance. If you’ve paid attention to the news, you know that highlighting that type of ambiguity can be dangerous ground. Thankfully, Faye has offered up a tremendous affirmation of gender identity and our collective need to think, and live, outside the box. – D.S
“All the Gold in California”
It’s tough to say how musically active Sturgill Simpson is going to be moving forward, since he’s hinted that he’s possibly done performing under his own name. But in July he surfaced in one of his occasional acting roles on the hilarious HBO show the “Righteous Gemstones,” and his character gets a chance to flex his pipes. In an episode, Simpson delivers a powerful a capella take on this Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers Band song and fortunately it was released as a single soon after. It’s credited to Brother Marshall and the Choir of Fire, so Simpson is indeed keeping us guessing about his musical future. – J.F
MJ Lenderman “Rudolph”
On the heels of 2022’s big buzz record “Boat Songs,” Asheville’s MJ Lenderman keeps the country-leaning indie crunch coming with this standalone single, his first for the record label ANTI-. “Rudolph” blends nostalgic imagery with dark storytelling that recalls the work of Southern gothic songwriters Patterson Hood and T. Hardy Morris, but it’s delivered with clear additional influence from 90s alternative bands like Smashing Pumpkins. – J.F.
Cover Photo: Asheville’s MJ Lenderman released the new single “Rudolph” this summer. Photo by Charlie Boss.