Four Southern Artists, You Need to Hear

If you’re searching for new tunes this fall, check out the sounds of these four emerging regional acts.

Kelsey Waldon

Listen If You Like: Loretta Lynn, Nikki Lane 

The Sound: Originally from the small community of Monkey’s Eyebrow, Ky., Waldon possesess a classic country voice and wry wit that helped her earn a loyal following when she moved to Nashville and started diligently working the local singer-songwriter circuit. That effort continues to pay off, as earlier this year she became the first new artist signed to John Prine’s Oh Boy Records in 15 years. On October 4, Waldon will release her first album for the label, White Noise/White Lines, a record that continues her approach of taking traditional twang forward with gritty originality. As Prine recently put it: “Her music continues an important arc of traditional folk and country music.”

Key Track: “Anyhow,” which leads off Waldon’s new album, is a honky-tonk throwback with a resilient message about staying true to yourself.

Catch Her: September 7 at Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, N.C., and October 6 at Mountain Stage in Charleston, W.Va.

Chatham Rabbits

Listen If You Like: Mandolin Orange, Gillian Welch

The Sound: A new act to emerge from the fertile roots scene in the North Carolina Triangle, Chatham Rabbits is the husband-and-wife duo of Austin and Sarah McCombie, who captivate with intimate close-harmony singing in the vein of recent predecessors Mandolin Orange. The couple favors rustic, minimalist acoustic arrangements—mainly clawhammer-style banjo and guitar—that showcase old-time reverence with compelling original songwriting. The group has been touring rigorously around the Southeast in support of the debut album All I Want from You, which was produced by Jerry Brown (Doc Watson) and features an appearance by Mandolin Orange’s Andrew Marlin. 

Key Track: “Chattanooga” from the band’s debut has a gentle mountain melody but the song’s protagonist is on the run from a troubled past.

Catch Them: September 7 at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Va., September 20 at Library Amphitheater in Brevard. N.C., September 21 at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Bristol, Tenn., October 24 at Pale Fire Brewing in Harrisonburg, Va., and October 26 at Isis Music Hall in Asheville, N.C.

Trigger Hippy

Listen If You Like: Little Feat, Blackberry Smoke

The Sound: Reborn after a five-year layoff, Trigger Hippy is a side-project collective led by drummer Steve Gorman, a founding member of the Black Crowes, and bassist Nick Govrick. The group released a self-titled album in 2014 when members included Joan Osborne and Jackie Greene, but this fall Gorman and Govrick are returning in a reconfigured quartet that includes guitarist Ed Jurdi and singer Amber Woodhouse. Accompanying the reboot is the sophomore effort Full Circle and Then Some (released October 4), a sturdy, soulful set of Southern-hued roots rock that features appearances by Willie Nelson’s harmonica ace Mickey Raphael and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s guitar shredder Sadler Vaden. Quick aside: If you’re into behind-the-scenes band dirt, Gorman is also publishing an account of his time in the Black Crowes. 

Key Track: “Strung Out on the Pain” is a country road song about leaving love behind that’s highlighted by wide-open pedal steel lines. 

Catch Them: The band just finished getting its live chops back in shape with a Nashville residency this summer, and more dates supporting the new album are on the way.  

Ian Noe

Listen If You Like: John Prine, The Byrds

The Sound: Back in the spring, this rising singer-songwriter released a stunning debut album, Between the Country, a 10-track set of vivid hard-luck story songs, inspired by struggling characters that surrounded him growing up in rural eastern Kentucky. Produced by roots studio ace Dave Cobb, the record chronicles dark realities with literary vision, as Noe uses a powerfully simple folk delivery reminiscent of early John Prine while also incorporating some of the vintage electric jangle of the Byrds.

Key Track: The stark yet soulful “Junk Town” channels Prine’s classic “Sam Stone,” a similarly mournful look at the pitfalls of addiction. 

Catch Him: October 5 at Songbyrd in Washington, D.C., October 8 at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, N.C., and October 25 at the Earl in Atlanta, Ga.  

More Biking in the Blue Ridge from our September Bike Issue Here