Caleb Caudle (pictured above) released his new album, “Better Hurry Up,” in April. Photo by Mike Dunn.
With so much lifeblood touring income lost in the last two months, the time to buy a physical album from your favorite band is now. It’s no secret that for musicians streaming income doesn’t pay the bills, so while that model unfairly is what it is, independent bands need direct support from fans through the purchase of records and merchandise. Here, we highlight some stellar new releases from artists that could use the support—acts that usually make a living through the nightly grind of playing clubs across the country.
John Moreland — “LP5”
The past two months have been filled with brain-scrambling what-ifs, but John Moreland puts the futility of worrying in perspective in “A Thought Is Just a Passing Train.” The meditative head-bobber—full of comforting wisdom—is a standout on an album that’s an optimistic career breakthrough for the introspective Tulsa-based tunesmith. His raspy-voiced ruminations often evoke Springsteen, if he’d been raised on Red Dirt, and with help from producer/multi-instrumentalist John Calvin Abney he’s found an atmospheric, slightly experimental space for his words to linger. Among mystical, airy arrangements, Moreland comes to grips with self-acceptance in songs like “Let Me Be Understood” and offers welcome solace in uncertain times.
Waxahatchee — “St. Cloud”
Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield made some big life changes—getting sober and moving to Kansas City—on the way to making her stunning new album “St. Cloud.” With the self-care comes a sweetly reshuffled sound that sheds some of the vintage fuzz of past efforts in favor of soulful, country-hued Americana arrangements that intentionally draw on her admiration of Lucinda Williams and Linda Ronstadt. The shift goes extremely well with Crutchfield’s usual soul-baring lyrics, as personal revelations patiently unfurl with intimate details (“Can’t Do Much”) and idyllic imagery (“Lilacs”).
Caleb Caudle — “Better Hurry Up”
North Carolina native Caleb Caudle fully embraced the vibe of his new home in Tennessee while making his latest album “Better Hurry Up,” which was released on April 3. To follow up 2018’s heartfelt indie-folk effort “Crushed Coins,” Caudle recorded his new effort at Johnny Cash’s rural Cash Cabin Studio, soaking in the lore of the Man in Black and enlisting an all-star cast of guests to contribute, including Elizabeth Cook, John Paul White, Courtney Marie Andrews, and Willie Nelson’s harmonica ace Mickey Raphael. The latter makes his presence felt in the joyous “Let’s Get,” a buoyant country-funk jam that exemplifies the album’s main sonic realm—loose, soulful roots-rock that recalls the vintage heydays of Little Feat and Leon Russell. With eight albums to his credit, Caudle is a prolific songwriter who specializes in down-home sentiments and has found a sound that suits him.
Lily Hiatt — “Walking Proof”
Guest appearances are also plentiful on “Walking Proof,” the upcoming album from twangy roots-rocker Lily Hiatt. The follow-up to the lauded breakout effort “Trinity Lane” features appearances by Amanda Shires, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and her dad, ace Americana tunesmith John Hiatt. The record, produced by former Cage the Elephant member Lincoln Parish, is full of personal introspection, with Hiatt using gritty country-rock to make sense of her struggles with sobriety and her mother’s suicide. The positive message on standouts like the distorted lead single “Brightest Star” shows that Hiatt has been coming out on the right side of strife—inspiration for all of us navigating a new reality.
Hiss Golden Messenger — “Forward, Children”
Once the moniker for singer-songwriter MC Taylor to release lo-fi folk tunes, Hiss Golden Messenger has evolved into an electrifying live band with songs extended and enhanced by gritty guitar breaks and soulful piano runs. A document of the group’s stellar growth from hard touring came unexpectedly in late March with the surprise live album “Forward, Children,” recorded just months earlier at a hometown show in North Carolina. The effort is full of uplifting versions of staples from Taylor’s back catalog, including “Southern Grammar” and “Red Rose Nantahala,” and a peak moment comes during the poignant crowd sing-along during “Heart Like a Levee,” a reminder of music’s unifying power. While physical copies of the live set aren’t available, Taylor released the album on Bandcamp, and he’s donating all proceeds to the Durham Public Schools Foundation in support of where his kids are educated and his wife works. “It’s my duty as a dad of students and the spouse of a teacher,” Taylor says, “to give what I can.”