Cover photo: Mac DeMarco made his new album, “five easy Hot dogs,” on a road trip. photo by Kiera McNally.
Our Favorite New Music from the Blue Ridge and Beyond
To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.
Every month our editors curate a playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In March we’re highlighting new tunes from Dave Matthews Band, Nickel Creek, and Mac Demarco.
The title of indie tunesmith Mac Demarco’s new album is pretty funny, but “Five Easy Hot Dogs” doesn’t contain any of his usual wry, humorous lyrics. Instead, it’s an instrumental effort recorded with portable gear during an extended road trip, featuring tracks named after the locations where the songs were made. “Edmonton” meanders in a hypnotic zone with a rolling guitar line and a pleasant repetitive synth melody. It’s a short two minutes, and much like the entire album, sounds like a spontaneous, albeit enjoyable, tide over until a proper DeMarco album is ready. – J.F.
Dave Matthews Band
Jam juggernaut Dave Matthews Band is returning with the band’s first new album in five years. “Walk Around the Moon” won’t be released until May but lead single “Madman’s Eyes” was unveiled earlier this year. It’s a heavy hitter with invigorating time signature shifts led by electric guitar, saxophone, and orchestral strings, while Matthews sings about searching for relief among societal chaos. The song wouldn’t sound out of place on the band’s landmark album “Before These Crowded Streets,” which came out 25 years ago. – J.F.
Time passes and relationships ebb and flow. The chance for reconnection with once dear friends, when time and distance has potentially eroded the friendship, can be trepidatious. Nickel Creek, featuring Chris Thile, and siblings Sean and Sara Watkins, ponder this notion on “Strangers,” an acoustic delight from their upcoming release “Celebrants.” Recording together for the first time in nine years, the iconic trio prove, without any doubt, that wondrous music is the reward for taking that step to reconnect. – D.S.
“Up On The Divide”
When some of the best bluegrass players of a generation get together to pick, you’d best take heed. Andrew Marlin (Watchouse), Chris Eldridge and Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers), Greg Garrison (Leftover Salmon), and Alex Hargreaves (Billy Strings) have joined forces to form Mighty Poplar. Featured this month is their take on Martha Scanlon’s “Up on the Divide.” Recorded in a converted tractor shed outside of Nashville, this song sounds like it evolved almost effortlessly; voices and instruments blend seamlessly in a way only true masters can create. – D.S.
Scott McKinnen and the Ever-Expanding
“What About Now”
It was a big bummer when indie folk-heroes Dr. Dog decided to stop touring indefinitely. But one of the band’s lead voices is launching a solo project this month. “What About Now” strolls with the vintage haze of Scott McKinnen’s old band. It’s a searcher’s anthem with a bouncy, soulful groove that will please fans of The Band and a welcome move forward for an artist starting a new chapter. The track comes from the new album, “Shabang,” which comes out on March 31. – J.F
“Slow Dance With You”
Dom Flemons exploded into the Americana consciousness as one third of the Carolina Chocolate Drops over 15 years ago. Long considered a preeminent voice in the world of Piedmont blues, Flemons pivots hard to classic country on “Slow Dance With You.” This one will have you holding your baby close as you two step across the floor, awash in harmonica, pedal steel, and Flemons’ wistful vocals, which emote the absolute longing he feels for his absent dance partner. – D.S.
“Whiskey, Women, and Wine”
Rod Elkins, Craig Burletic, and James Barker spend most of their time as half of Americana troubadour Tyler Childers’ backing band, The Food Stamps. Apparently, that hasn’t kept them busy enough. The trio recently joined singer/guitarist Doug Woodard to record and release a surprise country album under the name El Dorodo. This out of nowhere record hits all the right notes, and “Whiskey, Women, and Wine” is time-travelin’ vintage country, so good it should have been released straight to eight track. – D.S.
Uber-prolific Americana singer-songwriter Zach Bryan released the 34-track album “American Heartbreak” last year, and he keeps cranking out the tunes. “Dawns,” a standalone single released earlier this year, is a heartfelt duet with Maggie Rogers about feeling helpless when a loved one dies. The emotional track is scrappy and pensive, simmering in a dark mood before building with swelling strings and joined voices. – J.F.