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Trail Mix: Must-Hear Tracks for the Start of Summer

Amythyst Kiah

Tune in to BRO‘s Trail Mix playlist of new music, mainly focusing on independent artists from the South. In June’s Trail Mix, we’re highlighting new tunes from Yola and the Felice Brothers, plus the long-awaited return of the collaboration between Kentucky tunesmith Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Matt Sweeney. 

Felice Brothers

The Catskill Mountain-based folk-rock ramblers are back with a slow-burning mediation that ponders why some youthful memories persist. In his craggy, haunting voice Ian Felice namechecks 90s touchstones (Kurt Cobain, Fight Club) as he looks for meaning in what remains vivid. The new single—out via North Carolina’s Yep Roc Records—will land on a forthcoming album that follows the 2019 LP “Undress.”

Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Matt Sweeney
“Resist the Urge”

Back in 2005 Kentucky singer-songwriter Will Oldham, AKA Bonnie “Prince” Billy, released a collaborative album with inventive guitarist Matt Sweeney called “Superwolf,” which has remained a lasting cult favorite. Now 16 years later the duo has reunited with the follow-up, “Superwolves,” an expansive folk-rock set that finds Sweeney’s swirling guitar runs chasing Oldham’s flexibly idiosyncratic vocals. “Resist the Urge” has a delicate progression, but lyrically it hits like an emotional wrecking ball, with Oldham singing about the lingering spirit a person leaves behind after meeting an inevitable mortal fate. —J.F. 

“Diamond Studded Shoes”

Following her dynamic breakout LP “Walk Through Fire,” Nashville-based British soul singer Yola is returning with another Dan Auerbach-produced album, “Stand for Myself,” next month. Lead single “Diamond Studded Shoes” is a boogie-ready romp with retro panache, but within the celebratory groove is a cautionary message about the ongoing fight for wealth equality between the haves and the have-nots. —J.F. 

The Infamous Stringdusters
“My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling”

The Infamous Stringdusters’ latest release, a collection of songs by Bill Monroe, is a return to the bluegrass wellspring. Known for their progressive leanings, the ‘Dusters dig deep into their roots with “My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling.” It’s impossible to tell that the tune was recorded from studio spaces around the country as the band weathered the pandemic; the harmonies are high and lonesome and the licks and leads are simply ferocious. No doubt, Mr. Monroe approves. —D.S.  

“So Ready”

Studio cuts from jambands whet the appetite for what’s to come once the bands take the stage. Witness “So Ready,” a groovalicious track from Goose that pairs Christopher Cross vocals with the disco funk of War and Ohio Players. The opportunities for sonic exploration appear endless, with stratospheric guitar runs begging to run wild over fat 70s-era bass bombs. The song’s only shortcoming is just that; at not quite five minutes long, this studio version feels about 15 minutes too short. —D.S.  

David Wax Museum
“Juniper Jones”

David Wax Museum, the acoustic outfit known for blending Americana with traditional Mexican folk music, embraced studio experimentation on the new album  “Euphoric Ouroboric.” The vibrant standout track “Juniper Jones” builds with layers of accordion, horns, flute, electric guitar, drum tracks, and processed keys, climbing together with a narrative that follows an ambitious protagonist. —J.F. 

JP Harris
“Closer to the Mill (Going to California)” 

“Closer to the Mill (Going to California)” has vagabond country troubadour JP Harris and long-time fiddlin’ collaborator Chance McCoy, an Old Crow Medicine Show alum, returning to the old-time balladry that still resonates deeply in the hollers of Appalachia. Harris sings of life’s ebb and flow, that to get you have to give, all while deftly trading clawhammer banjo rolls with McCoy’s fiddle runs in a song that exposes the truest of roots music traditions native to the Appalachian Mountains. —D.S. 

Amythyst Kiah
“Wild Turkey”

Amythyst Kiah’s songs cut to the quick. On “Wild Turkey,” she carves right to the bone, delivering an intimate and bruising soliloquy about the tragic loss of her mother. Building from sparse acoustic strumming to an emotional crescendo, Kiah strips bare the crippling grief and crushing uncertainty that comes from losing a parent at a young age. Already Grammy nominated for her work with Our Native Daughters, Kiah’s new record cements her place as a rising star in the folk music world. —D.S.  

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

Cover photo: Amythyst Kiah’s new album, “Wary + Strange,” will be released on June 18. Photo by Sandlin Gaither

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