The way music of different genres evolves is like a game of telephone. It’s passed along from artist to artist, each time tweaked by the individuals’ unique little quirks.
Unlike the game of telephone, however, there is very often a recognizable sound connecting each song like a shared heartbeat. Though in the modern industry the lines between genres are being blurred and blended more and more, there are these key foundations retaining a sense of familiar consistency that satisfies our expectations while allowing innovators to present us with something new.
Folk, sometimes categorized as “music of the people,” and Americana are two very honest, story-based categories, and while they have a sort of pure connotation to them, they too are fair game for experimentation.
This month, we’re taking a look at how some artists from Nashville and beyond chose to interpret such classic genres while still paying ample respects to those roots that make them so special.
5. Izzy Heltai – “My Old Friends”
Izzy Heltai gives a fresh and personal take about feeling lost and homesick in his latest single “My Old Friends”. The song is bubbly enough to distract from the forlorn lyrics, bright guitar motifs scattered throughout the pauses between each revealing line. With this particular track edging towards a more rock-inspired sound, Heltai has long experimented with what a folk song can sound like, and he brings the same creative attitude to the song’s lyric video, in which he embraces his lack of talent for dancing in favor of generating smiles for his viewers. This choice also matches his mission in leading “a moral life over an aesthetic life.”
4. FRETLAND – “One More Try”
Appearing on FRETLAND’s sophomore album Could Have Loved You, and previously released as a single, “One More Try” is a catchy and suspenseful addition to the generally laid-back record. Its infectious rhythm paired with frontwoman Hillary Fretland’s vocals create a relaxed and comforting atmosphere, guiding the listener on a journey of doubt and perseverance. Sway along and daydream about the one that got away, the one who “every song will be about,” and will always tempt you to give them one more try. The rest of the album mixes “equal parts Nashville country and Northwest indie rock, dappled with the atmospheres of U.K. dream-pop.”
3. Jaelee Roberts – “Still Waters”
Music City native Jaelee Roberts is showing off her impressive vocal capabilities well beyond her 19 years of age in the energetic track, “Still Waters.” A commercial songwriting major at Middle Tennessee State University, Roberts can not only sing and write, but plays the guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and piano. Her powerful voice has earned her the attention of an up-and-coming bluegrass figure continuing the heritage of her father Danny Roberts of The Grascals. “Still Waters” is an ear-catching assortment of harmonies and instruments not only fit for the worship aspect of its contents but the kind of upbeat folk that encourages listeners to sing along.
2. Gabe Lee – “Lyra (Reimagined)”
Previously “Lyra (Queen of the Starlite Motel)” from his 2019 album farmland, “Lyra (Reimagined)” is Nashville artist Gabe Lee’s opportunity to turn the spotlight on the cheerful song even a couple years after its debut. There is a special way the song captures the energy and personality of a live performance, with captivating narration walking the audience through the story, while keeping the clear quality of a studio recording. The newer version draws more attention to Lee’s emotive vocals, adjusting the guitar parts behind him and letting his female counterpart’s harmonies enhance his own storytelling in a more productive way than the original. A theatrical, interactive performance, “Lyra” is well-deserving of individual recognition and a second pass at stardom.
1. The Accidentals – “Night Train”
“The sun was a half-dollar coin in the November sky,” Katie Larson of The Accidentals sings as she smoothly lures you in to their latest single “Night Train.” It only gets better from there. With a gradual, shepherding build throughout the song, the imagery of the lyrics and the vulnerable emotion that is a result of the trio’s palpable bond invites the listener to let each murmur of a string and harmony reverberate through their own soul. The single also premiered with its music video, which features the three members walking through the snow between shots of them performing the song in a blank room with home videos being projected over them.