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 bands that will be performing at regional festivals, including the Head and the Heart, Paul Cauthen, and Chatham Rabbits.
“If You See Me Riding By”
Chatham Rabbits, the North Carolina-based project of married couple Sarah and Austin McCombie, expand their rustic acoustic sound on “If You See Me Riding By,” the title track from a new album that will be released on June 3. Known for intimate old-time revivalism, here the duo builds an atmospheric folk ballad with colorful touches of pedal steel and electric guitar, as Sarah McCombie sings about humility and being able to lean on someone else for strength. The group will play songs from the new album, produced by Saman Khoujinian (Watchhouse, Sylvan Esso) at a variety of summer festivals, including the Cold Mountain Music Festival in North Carolina (June 4) and the Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Virginia (June 25). – J.F.
Sammy Rae and the Friends
“Follow Me to the Moon”
“Follow Me to the Moon,” the new standalone single from the seven-piece collective Sammy Rae and the Friends, has a jazzy, seductive groove. It’s a standout track in the growing catalog of the Brooklyn-based group, who has built a fast reputation for putting on a high-energy live show that blends elements of buoyant funk and soulful rock—all revolving around the limber vocals and uplifting stage presence of leader Samantha Bowers (who performs as Sammy Rae). The group will certainly build big buzz on this summer’s festival circuit, as they will perform at Rooster Walk (May 28), the Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Virginia (June 25), and 4848 Festival (July 8). – J.F.
Pete Kartsounes has been a fixture in the jamgrass and singer-songwriting circles in Colorado and the Pacific Northwest for years. Locked down early in the pandemic, Kartsounes picked up a looping station and a new project, DJPK, was born. “Let Go” is a departure from much of “Revelation,” the latest DJPK collection of tunes inspired by the sounds of India. With native Indian instruments like tanpura and duduk dancing over the tumbling creek sounds Kartsounes recorded in the Rocky Mountains, “Let Go” is a seven-minute meditative release that succinctly wraps up the transcendental vibe of this record. – D.S.
The Head and the Heart
“Virginia (Wind in the Night)”
Although indie-folk mainstays the Head and the Heart formed in Seattle, front man Jonathan Russell has roots in Virginia, which he pays homage to on this moving track from the group’s new album “Every Shade of Blue.” Backed by emotive piano chords, Russell leads the soaring rock song with heartfelt lyrics about the impressionable memories of an old home place. The Head and the Heart’s extensive summer tour stops at Beech Mountain for the resort’s summer concert series on July 16. – J.F.
At the end of a long week, irreverent Texas troubadour Paul Cauthen is ready to blow off some steam and have a good time. He says as much in “High Heels,” a thumping country tune that calls for a big night at the honky-tonk with plans to “burn it down to closing time.” Cauthen, who boasts a brawny voice that recalls outlaw forebearers like Waylon Jennings, included the track on his new album “Country Coming Down.” The twangy tunes from the record will go down easy at Bonnaroo, where Cauthen will perform on June 16-19. – J.F.
“Come and Go Moon”
It’s apropos that Railroad Earth recorded their latest record in New Orleans. “Come and Go Moon,” written and sung by bassist Andrew Altman, eases in with groovy, Big Easy swagger. Tim Carbone drops ticklish fiddle notes as the song strolls along with tasty piano and bluesy slide guitar. It’s not hard to imagine enjoying this one in a New Orleans dive bar, hurricane in hand, with Railroad Earth channeling the spirits of America’s most important musical city. Catch them at FloydFest on July 31. – D.S.
“Russell County Line”
Front man Issac Gibson wore his hands weary during his days as a stonemason in his hometown of Castlewood, Va. Now toting a guitar instead of a trowel, Gibson and his mates in 49 Winchester are unapologetic for the love they share of the southwest Virginia mountains they call home. On “Russell County Line,” Gibson croons with vintage country twang over piano and acoustic guitar, before the song roars to an electrified crescendo, all the while romanticizing the pining for home a traveling musician always feels while on the road. See the band at Red Wing Roots Music Festival on June 25 and Floydfest on July 27. – D.S
The Americans craft a throwback sound as vintage as the National guitars they play. “Give Way,” from the record, “Stand True,” epitomizes the strength of the trio’s songwriting. Singer Patrick Ferris’s smoky vocals both soothe and growl as the song winds from moments of serene contemplation to garage rock bombast. This is a song that will stick in your head, and you’ll swear you’ve heard it before, but only because it resonates so deeply with the vestiges of the best American music. – D.S.
Cover photo: Sarah and Austin McCombie of Chatham Rabbits. Photo by Chris Frisina