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Top Tunes in August

Cover photo: Micah and Willie Nelson. Photo by Annie Nelson

Our Favorite 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 August we’re highlighting new tunes from Marcus King, Trampled by Turtles, and a duet featuring Willie Nelson and his son Micah (AKA Particle Kid).

Marcus King
“Hard Working Man”

Marcus King continues to make big moves. On August 26, the South Carolina-bred guitar hero and blues singer will release the new album, “Young Blood,” an effort produced by Dan Auerbach that will come out on Rick Rubin’s American Records/Republic label. The record’s lead single is a crunchy ripper that channels some serious 70s rock swagger with timeless lyrics about blue-collar perseverance. — J.F.

Fireside Collective
“Blue Is My Condition”

Asheville’s Fireside Collective has been shaking up the bluegrass scene for years and has drawn comparisons to such progressive stalwarts as Greensky Bluegrass and The Infamous Stringdusters. “Blue Is My Condition,” from the band’s newest release, “Across The Divide,” justifies the rave reviews. Alex Genova’s banjo licks kick off a bluegrass romp, and his bandmates toss ferocious instrumental breaks around like hot potatoes. If you happen to be feeling blue, this tune has all the acoustic remedy you need. – D.S.

Particle Kid and Willie Nelson
“Die When I’m High (Halfway to Heaven)”

Micah and Willie Nelson. Photo by Annie Nelson

Micah Nelson, who performs as Particle Kid, honors his dad Willie’s impressive longevity in “Die When I’m High (Halfway to Heaven).” The loping country song was written by the younger Nelson after an off-the-cuff remark by his 89-year-old dad while they were playing chess. You might hear father and son sing it live on the Outlaw Music Festival tour, which stops in Charlotte, N.C., on September 10 and Virginia Beach, Va., on September 11. – J.F.

Mariel Buckley
“Shooting At The Moon”

Don’t let Mariel Buckley’s twang and the moaning pedal steel that opens “Shooting At The Moon” fool you. This is no laid-back two step ditty. It’s pure fire, a rock and roller driven by guitars dripping reverb and a freight train rhythm section hell bent on jumping the tracks. Our alt-country-loving neighbors in Canada have known about Buckley since she began gathering laurels after the release of her first record back in 2018. It’s about time we start paying attention down here. – D.S.

Sylvan Esso
“Your Reality”

North Carolina indie pop duo Sylvan Esso enters a new sonic phase with “Your Reality,” a single that multi-instrumentalist Nick Sanborn said seeks to explore “how bare and strange something can be.” Accordingly, the track has a minimalist electronic arrangement with a soothing hook that blankets singer Amelia Heath’s poetically rendered call for confronting one’s identity. – J.F.

Trampled by Turtles
“It’s So Hard to Hold On”

Trampled by Turtles. Photo by Zoe Prinds

Longstanding string band Trampled by Turtles offers a reminder that even the best memories fade away with time in the new single “It’s So Hard to Hold On.” Despite the somber melody and ache in lead singer Dave Simonette’s voice, the song still channels some uplifting joy through the band’s collective acoustic plucking and an ultimate call to treasure good times in the present moment. The tune comes from the band’s new album, “Alpenglow,” which was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. – J.F.

The Brother Brothers
“If You Ain’t Got Love”

It isn’t hard to imagine Adam and David Moss, the twin songwriters known as The Brother Brothers, tracing their harmonies back to the womb. The Moss boys, like so many brother duos before them, share vocal nuances that just can’t be matched by singers who don’t share genetic material. “If You Ain’t Got Love” rolls with a breezy, 60s beach vibe. Penned by Chas Justus, of Red Stick Ramblers and the Revelers fame, it appears on the brothers’ new release of cover tunes.

Acoustic Syndicate
“All in Time”

Thank goodness there’s no quit in North Carolina’s Acoustic Syndicate. The band will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary this year with a brand new record, “All In Time.” The title track opens with a hypnotic banjo riff from Bryon McMurry, with cousin Steve McMurry’s vocals matching the band’s gradual surge to a crescendo of optimism. The song’s chorus, yet another example of the McMurry harmonies honed by three decades on the road, reminds us of the weaving of time, light, love, and hope. It’s beautifully poignant. – D.S.

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