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Trail Mix: Fresh Spins of August

Four New Albums You Need to Hear

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Dragons—Released August 16

 Tennessee tunesmith Drew Holcomb has never been one to dwell in the mire. His brand of sturdy Americana often offers uplifting perspective on overcoming life’s turmoil, and he’s in fine form on his latest record, Dragons, thanks in part to help from an impressive cast of collaborators. Holcomb co-wrote six of the 10 songs on his new effort, working with fellow songwriters Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna, and Sean McConnell, and in the process took the chance to expand his sonic palette beyond the typical roots realm. Upbeat opener “Family” is a melodic stomp-and-clap celebration of the endearing moments and occasional messiness that make up a happy home. The title track is even more poignant, a carpe diem folk song that features hair-raising harmonies from the Lone Bellow. In the similarly themed ”End of the World,” Holcomb veers off his rustic path to embrace airy modern pop production. It comes across as an earnest move on a record that’s about welcoming new perspectives. 

Holcomb performs at the Railbird Festival in Lexington, Ky., on August 11, and hosts his own Moon River Music Festival in Chattanooga, Tenn., with special guests Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Brandi Carlile on September 7-8. 

Penny & Sparrow

Finch—Released August 2

 Frequent Holcomb tour mates Penny & Sparrow also return with a new album, Finch, this month; the indie folk duo’s sixth overall. Musical partners Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke thrive with minimalist acoustic arrangements with powerfully hushed vocals that call to mind Bon Iver and Iron & Wine. With campfire sparseness and emotional unease, “Stockholm” and “Gumshoe” could fit on Bon Iver’s breakout For Emma, Forever Ago, but these melancholic moments brush up against joyful songs too. “Don’t Wanna Be Without Ya,” for instance, uses an upbeat, Paul Simon-minded world groove to propel lyrics about being able to follow your true love into the afterlife. 

Penny & Sparrow performs at the Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C., on September 7 and the Harvester Performance Arts Center in Rocky Mount, Va., on September 15.

Tyler Childers

Country Squire—Released August 2

 Kentuckian Tyler Childers became a fast-rising Americana star behind the success of his 2017 debut Purgatory, a record that told vivid tales about the seedy side of modern Appalachia through hardscrabble country-rock with shades of bluegrass. Childers picks up where he left off on the highly anticipated follow-up, Country Squire, which like its predecessor was co-produced by Sturgill Simpson and Johnny Cash’s former engineer David Ferguson. The title track is a fiddle-driven honky-tonk ramble with Childers singing personal lyrics about grinding through blue-collar jobs and living in a trailer with his wife when they were newlyweds. Lonesome ballad “Peace of Mind” takes a more mournful approach to characters stuck in a rural rut, with the achingly sung lines, “Days are darker down in the holler, waiting for the sun to shine.” Childers directly addresses his wife, Senora May (an excellent songwriter as well), in the soulful love song “All Your’n,” which adds a funky, heartfelt step to an effort he self-describes as a “working man’s country album.” 

Childers performs at the Railbird Festival in Lexington, Ky., on August 11, the Anthem in Washington, D.C. on December 13, and the Fillmore in Charlotte, N.C., on December 19. 

Los Coast 

Samsara—Released Jun 14

 Emerging Texas outfit Los Coast is a must-see live act, and the quintet’s eclectic, high-energy sound translates well on its debut album, Samsara. The stew here is a wild mix of old-school soul, funk, R&B, hip-hop, and rock, led by the hearty growling vocals of front man Trey Privott—whose gritty singing at times evokes that of another great Texan, Black Joe Lewis. “Simplify” chugs along with anthemic Sly Stone swagger, while “(Everything But) The Kitchen Sink” digs into the wonderful weirdness of Parliament. A true stunner is the acoustic-based existential meditation “Chesapeake,” which sounds like Otis Redding singing on an Appalachian front porch. 

Los Coast performs at the Marcus King Band Family Reunion on a bill with the host band, as well as Jason Isbell, Josh Ritter, Amanda Shires, and Futurebirds, at Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain, N.C., on September 28.  

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