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Our Favorite Songs in May

Best 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 May we’re highlighting new tunes from the Avett Brothers and Adrianne Lenker.


“Right Back to It”

Katie Crutchfield continues moving in a country direction on her new album, “Tigers Blood,” which came out in March. On this slow-burning standout, she’s joined by Asheville’s MJ Lenderman for this thoughtful meditation on a long-term love that’s accented by arpeggiated banjo rolls and relaxing pedal steel fills. – J.F.

The Avett Brothers

 “Love of a Girl”

This month, the Avett Brothers are back with their first album in five years, a self-titled effort that once again finds North Carolina’s native sons working with producer Rick Rubin. The first single “Love of a Girl” dishes out Scott and Seth’s expected heart-on-the-sleeve musings through gritty, raw garage rock and a big, harmonized hook. It’s a tune that’s ripe to be a big winner at live shows. – J.F. 

Chris Smither

 “All About the Bones”

Chris Smither, who turns 80 in November and has been performing his folksy brand of acoustic blues over a career that dates back to the 1960s, is a certified American musical icon. The title track from his latest album, “All About the Bones,” proves this near-octogenarian hasn’t lost a step. Adept acoustic finger picking, Smither’s rolling baritone, and tasteful saxophone accompaniment highlight this reminder that pomp and fluff matter little when compared to the true substance of a man and the legacy he leaves behind. – D.S.

Ordinary Elephant

“Once Upon a Time”

“Once Upon a Time” begins about as beautifully as a song possibly can; Pete Damore’s subtle banjo offers a simple prelude to the stunning vocals of Crystal Hairu-Damore, his wife and musical partner. The husband-and-wife duo settle into their roles comfortably, combining powerful harmonies over a stripped bare banjo and guitar melody, all the while offering a frighteningly beautiful song that lays bare the anxiety held in a relationship wistful for its early idyllic years. – D.S.

Adrianne Lenker 

“Free Treasure”

Big Thief leader Adrianne Lenker dropped a new solo album, “Bright Future,” back in March, and it includes this gorgeous folk song filled with idyllic imagery.  The gently finger-picked “Free Treasure”—a duet with Twain’s Mat Davidson—is a meditation on the glow of new love, when a relationship is brimming with discovery, and it’s the perfect soundtrack to the blooms and porch breezes during springtime in the mountains. – J.F. 


“Keep Going”

College rock fans north of 50 are well familiar with the band Guster. The quartet has been an alt-rock staple for over thirty years, and this month they drop “Ooh La La,” their 9th LP (and first in over five years). Everything about “Keep Going,” the luscious vocals, danceable percussion, and effects-laden synth sounds, is hypnotic, with the band deftly capturing a powerful sense of optimism, passionately espousing perseverance and the search for joy among life’s trying times. – D.S.

Jacob Joliff 


Jacob Joliff is a monster on the mandolin. The Berklee grad, former member of Joy Kills Sorrow and Yonder Mountain String Band, and current touring partner of the likes of Tony Trischka and Bela Fleck, is releasing a new set of instrumental acoustic tunes this month. “Vera” is the first single from “Instrumentals Vol. 2: Mandolin Mysteries,” and it is breathtaking in both its complexity and beauty, with Joliff’s mandolin dancing note for note with George Jackson’s fiddle in what can only be described as a master class in acoustic songwriting. – D.S.



Delivering the goods since the 90s, Mark Oliver “E” Everett still occasionally surfaces to provide some novocaine for the soul via his long-running Eels project. His new track, the woozy, downtempo “Goldy,” explores isolation and the comfort that can come from unlikely sources. It’s featured on the upcoming album, “Eels Time!,” which will be released on June 7. – J.F.

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