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Sonic Bloom: 5 Acts to Catch in the Blue Ridge This Spring

Emerge from the season of hibernation and check out these bands bringing fresh sounds to the South.

Blackberry Smoke

Shows: March 14-15 at the Opera House in Lexington, Ky., and March 28-30 at the Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount, Va.

Southern rock torchbearers Blackberry Smoke will tone down the distortion this spring on the Break It Down Tour, an acoustic trek based on the band’s fall-released The Southern Ground Sessions. The short, five-song EP features the Atlanta-based band playing stripped-down versions of songs from their latest full-length, Find A Light, as well as a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” that features an appearance by singer-songwriter/fiddler Amanda Shires.

The Infamous Stringdusters

Shows: March 28 at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville, Ky., April 2 at the Signal in Chattanooga, Tenn., April 4 at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, N.C., and April 6 at the National in Richmond, Va.

If you’re in need of a good dose of optimism, look to Rise Sun, the forthcoming release from this long-standing expansive bluegrass crew. With a message calling for unity, the early-released title track charges forward with positive momentum, led by a sing-along chorus, handclaps, and driving banjo rolls. “Rise Sun was sparked by the feeling of wanting something better for the world—more love, more awareness, and more compassion,” said dobro player Andy Hall, about the record that comes out on April 5. “It’s a message of taking care of each other, our planet, and our selves. Sometimes a message of hope is less popular than one of despair, but it’s much-needed nevertheless.”

William Tyler

Shows: March 3 at the Mothlight in Asheville, N.C., March 5 at the Southern Café and Music Hall in Charlottesville, Va., and March 7 at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Ga. 

Back in January, Tyler released Goes West, his latest set of instrumental guitar tunes that evoke images of wide-open spaces and pastoral landscapes with nary a word. Unlike his equally inspiring 2016 effort Modern Country, Tyler, who’s played with Lambchop and the Silver Jews, uses only an acoustic guitar on his newest—a record inspired by his move from Nashville to Los Angeles. 

Joy Williams

Shows: April 27 at the Miracle Theatre in Washington, D.C., April 28 at the Southern Café and Music Hall in Charlottesville, Va., and April 29 at the ArtsCenter – Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, N.C. 

Williams’ forthcoming solo album Front Porch, which will be released on May 3,  was made while Williams was pregnant with her second child, and accordingly her lyrics are personal and reflective. The already-released title track features an airy acoustic arrangement, giving the spotlight to Williams’ powerful vocals as she sings about the familiar comforts of home. “There is an energy that is very creative in having a baby,” Williams said in a statement previewing the album. “Everything you are feeling is elevated. And you have a time-stamped sense of urgency.” 

Kurt Vile and the Violators

Shows: March 16 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., and March 17 at the National in Richmond, Va.

Kurt Vile’s latest album Bottle It In is his most engaging set of trippy, guitar-led indie folk-rock tunes. Vile’s languid drawl and humorous wordplay offer a comforting way to look at life’s absurdities. He’s also a killer guitarist, so he and his steadfast band the Violators should go deep on album tracks like the 10-minute “Bassackwards,” which features a sprawling, trance-inducing groove. 

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