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Fresh Tunes from My Morning Jacket and Norman Blake and More

neal casal

Tune in to Trail Mix, our monthly playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In November we’re highlighting fresh tunes from My Morning Jacket and Norman Blake, and a tribute to the late guitarist Neal Casal. 

My Morning Jacket

“Love Love Love” — The members of My Morning Jacket know what the world needs now. Endless positivity radiates from this anthem found on the Kentucky rockers’ new self-titled album, which dropped last month. The title is repeated like a mantra as Jim James and company try to channel good vibes in divisive times. Sonically, the song is ripe for a workout on the live stage, with a propulsive backbeat, chunky guitar riffs, and vibrant harmonies. – J.F. 

Spencer Cullum
Spencer Cullum

Spencer Cullum

“Imminent Shadow” — A well-known pedal steel guitar whiz and an in-demand session player who’s worked with the likes of Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert, and Kesha, Spencer Cullum creates a melancholic mood with his own music, immersing himself in the pastoral psychedelia of 70s British folk. This hauntingly beautiful track from his debut solo album “Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection” vividly channels the eerie introspection of Nick Drake with gently cascading acoustic guitar work and mysterious lyrics that sound like they’re narrating a strange dream. – J.F.

Norman Blake

Time ­— Norman Blake, Americana icon and octogenarian, refuses to fade silently into what most would consider his twilight years. Now 83, Blake has just released “Day By Day,” his fifth album in ten years. On “Time,” the only original tune amid a collection of folk standards, Blake hasn’t slipped a bit; his guitar playing remains crisp and rich and his baritone voice ripples through an ode to memories and the passing of time with the experience only gained from decades in front of a microphone. – D.S.

Marcus King with Eric Krasno 

“No One Above You” — The music world misses Neal Casal. The late guitarist was long affiliated with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and Hard Working Americans, but he was also a prolific songwriter, releasing 14 records of his own. Recently 130 musicians, including King and Krasno, came together to celebrate Casal’s life and legacy, recording 41 of his songs on “Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal.” “No One Above You” is a standout in a collection that is a stellar tribute to a talent lost too soon. – D.S.

John DeNicola

“High” — Oscar and Golden Globe winner John DeNicola had five decades in the music business behind him before releasing his debut album in 2019. Recently, DeNicola—known for penning THE song from the 1987 movie smash “Dirty Dancing”—retreated to a barn in upstate New York to craft his second album. “High,” with its trippy synth and falsetto disco harmonies, is a seventies soul throwback, grooving smooth with the reminder that love can take us wherever we need to go. – D.S. 

Brittany Spencer
Brittany Spencer

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit with Brittney Spencer 

“Midnight Train to Georgia” — Backed by Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, singer Brittney Spencer lends her sultry pipes to a soulful cover of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The track comes from Isbell and his band’s new set “Georgia Blue,” an album of covers of 13 songs with ties to the Peach State. Isbell promised to make the record, which also includes takes on Driver 8 by R.E.M. and the Allman Brothers Band’s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” if Georgia voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election. – J.F.

The Tragically Hip

“Fiddler’s Green” — To celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Road Apples,” the Tragically Hip are releasing an expansive box set featuring a treasure trove of unreleased material, live cuts, and a remastered version of the original record. Included is a stripped-to-the-bone take of “Fiddler’s Green,” featuring only front man Gord Downie on vocals and Rob Baker on guitar. This intimate recording pulls taut on the heartstrings, as the 2017 passing of Downie still weighs heavy on fans of the Hip. – D.S.

Nathan Evans Fox

“Carolina Boy” — Nashville tunesmith Nathan Fox reflects on the need to escape small-town life for better opportunities in the earnest country tune “Carolina Boy,” which comes from the singer-songwriter’s new album “Wasted Love.” Amid an atmospheric arrangement, Fox sounds solemn and contrite as he lists off the myriad troubles he’s witnessed as a result of rural ennui. But it’s ultimately a bit of his mother’s wisdom that validates the decision to leave home for greener pastures. – J.F.  

To hear these songs and more, follow the Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Trail Mix playlist on Spotify.

Cover photo: A new 41-song collection, “Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal,” honors the late guitarist (pictured). Photo by Jay Blakesberg 

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