Jessica Lea Mayfield and Seth Avett collaborate on an album of Elliot Smith tunes.

“Do you not know Elliot Smith’s story?”

I had just asked a good buddy of mine if he was a fan of Elliot Smith and, after answering in the affirmative, he posed that question to me. I was ignorant of the answer, so I could only ask him to elaborate. Turns out that Elliot Smith was both a brilliant songwriter and a troubled soul, and, like many of his contemporaries – Mark Linkous, Vic Chesnutt, and Jeff Buckley, just to name a few – he met too soon with a tragic end.

This conversation developed as we listened to Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliot Smith, the brand new record from Avett and Mayfield that, as the name suggests, is a collection of Elliot Smith tunes. I am firm believer that the best songwriters are too keenly aware of a darkness that the rest of us do not know. This collaboration between Avett and Mayfield certainly swims that current of melancholy, providing heartbreaking evidence that Smith knew the darkness to which I refer, but – despite, or because of, that sadness – these songs are achingly beautiful.

Also featured this month is a brand new track from JJ Grey & Mofro. The new record, Ol’ Glory, is a powerhouse, and “Hold On Tight,” on this month’s playlist, is pure crunchy Southern rock and soul dynamite.

Be sure to check out new tunes from Bombadil, Joe Pug, James McMurtry, Bonson Berner, Nicholas David, Ryley Walker, MEW, The Sky Colony, Busses, and much more. With 31 tracks, what’s mentioned here is just the tiniest taste of the goodness that awaits on this month’s mix.

Stay tuned to the Trail Mix blog this month for lots of fun stuff. I’ll be chatting with Matthew O’Neill about his new record and will be catching up with Travis Book to chat beer, bluegrass, and bikes. Also on tap are features on a display at the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum that showcases Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and The Nashville Cats, and I track down The Apache Relay before they hit the stage at The Grey Eagle later in the month.

And, of course, be sure to share the mix with your friends and neighbors. Play it often, play it loud, and sing along. And, if you dig what you hear, get out and buy some records or catch some of these great artists when they come through your town. They’d appreciate it.

Download the Trailmix tracks here.