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Top Tunes for February

Our Favorite 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 February we’re highlighting new tunes from Tyler Ramsey and Hurray for the Riff Raff.

Tyler Ramsey

“New Lost Ages”

Best known for his stretch as lead guitarist in Band of Horses, Tyler Ramsey has been a fixture on the Blue Ridge music scene since the early 2000s. The western North Carolina tunesmith played in the Asheville indie folk band DrugMoney and has released a handful of solo albums starting with a 2004 self-titled effort. He’s got another record—produced by indie heavyweight producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty) under his own name coming this month, and the title track is a weighty, pensive rock tune that wishes for a turnaround in our current divisive times. – J.F.

Holler Choir

“Heart Shaped Box”

Bold is the band that dares to cover a song symbolic of a musical movement, but Asheville’s Holler Choir does just that with their rendition of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box.” Clint Roberts’ vocals echo Kurt Cobain’s haunted spirit, while soaring dobro and fiddle runs cast against stark percussion and droning clawhammer banjo capture the eerie, desperate emotion of the song, allowing Holler Choir to put a masterful acoustic spin on a grunge rock classic. – D.S.

Real Estate

“Water Underground”

The chillest dudes in indie rock are back with another set of mellow, sun-kissed tunes. “Water Underground,” a meditation on the random streams of inspiration that come during the songwriting process, is the lead single from the new album, “Daniel,” which was recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning producer Daniel Tashian. The record drops on February 23. – J.F. 

Chatham County Line

“Magic”

Chatham County Line began blending electric instruments and percussion into their bluegrassy sound in recent years, but “Magic,” from their new release, “Hiyo,” is emblematic of just how far the band is pushing their sonic borders as they enter their 25th year. Spacey synthesizers and slick production seem incongruous with a band long known for singing the old timey way around a single microphone, but the North Carolina trio make it feel like a natural evolution. – D.S.

Hurray for the
Riff Raff

“Alibi” 

After some synth-based expansion on her 2022 album “Life on Earth,” Alynda Segarra—leader of Hurray for the Riff Raff—gets back to roots music on the new single, “Alibi.” The shuffling country-rock song features poignant reflections on grief, as Segarra was dealing with the loss of her father while writing and recording her new album, “The Past is Still Alive,” which comes out on February 23. The record features a handful of great special guests, including Conor Oberst, Anjimile, and S.G. Goodman. – J.F. 

Colby T. Helms

“Higher Ground”

Colby T. Helms, who hails from the small town of Boones Mill, Va., is a promising up and comer who blends the Appalachian grit of Tyler Childers with the relaxed string-band whimsy of John Hartford. He showcases his hearty, heartfelt vocal style in this standout from his debut album “Tales of Misfortune,” which came out last month. The protagonist in “Higher Ground” is a hard-luck hustler who dreams of giving a loved one a better life. – J.F

Corb Lund

“Out on a Win”

Canadian-born country troubadour Corb Lund channels the journeyman slugger’s pathos on “Out on a Win,” a musical tale told from the perspective of an aging MMA fighter. Lund sings of all the times his protagonist has been down and out, weary and worn from fights the world over. Lund’s fighter has taken more whippings than wins, but the desire to finish on top keeps pulling him into the octagon, always chasing the validation of that final victory. – D.S. 

The High Hawks

“Diamond Sky”

“Diamond Sky,” from the all-star collective The High Hawks, is a breezy country waltz, buoyed by the fiddle work of Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) and the harmonies of Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon) and Adam Greuel (Horseshoes and Hand Grenades). With hints of both George Jones and The Band, the song hangs easily in the air, much like the band’s namesake, feathered by memories of midnight skies and moonlit horizons. – D.S. 

Cover Photo: Tyler Ramsey. Photo by Parker J. Pfister/courtesy of Big Hassle Publicity

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