November has come and gone, and in its wake we’re left with some damn fine pieces of music we didn’t have before. Such is the joy with each passing month. (when it comes to music, that is)
So without much fanfare, here is a concise list of the Top Five Country, Americana, & Bluegrass Releases of November that caught my eyes and ears, and prompted the writing of this list.
5. Fuzzy & The Rustbelts- “Long Lost Wind”
“I was somewhere in the long lost wind/I was starin’ at that door again/You never turned around to say goodbye/You left me somewhere in the wind.” This track by Buffalo, New York, based Americana outfit Fuzzy & The Rustbelts rings that old familiar bell of trying to find your way and feeling like you’re going it alone. With “Long Lost Wind,” the band taps into that blue collar relatability we’ve come to expect from more roots-oriented music. And that’s why fans listen to music in the realm of Americana, country, bluegrass, and folk, because it feels most relatable and approachable to the everyday man and woman. At least that’s my two cents. And Fuzzy & The Rustbelts deliver that feeling along with a catchy, singable chorus, and energy fit for a music festival. (remember those?)
4. Jade Marie Patek- “Dancing With The Devil”
“The only thing hotter than hell is Texas.” I feel like someone might’ve said that once. Maybe Guy Clark. Probably not, though. In any case, Lone Star country songstress Jade Marie Patek unleashed her fierce country rock track “Dancing With The Devil” less than two weeks ago, and it without a doubt commands your attention. Patek rattles off her wisdom with the resounding line, “Can’t keep dancin’ with the devil and wonder why you’re still in hell”, which leads into some dirty power rock fit for the vampire club in From Dusk Til Dawn. The track is loaded with brute force led by Patek’s scorching vocals, and her band matches with bone-jarring instrumentation. She reminds you that Texas is home to some of the best songsmiths to walk the earth. Or perhaps even hell…
3. Brit Taylor- “Real Me”
In listening to the first twenty seconds of Brit Taylor’s song “Real Me”, it’s not difficult to imagine yourself in a hammock on the beach, frosted drink in hand, and finding you’re actually in a commercial for a Key West resort. (it’s December, a fella can imagine) And that’s the magic of music, especially instrumentation- you, as the listener, can interpret it as you please. But honestly, this is a beautiful, instrumentally minimalist song with Taylor’s elegant vocals at the forefront, and is also the title track off of the songwriter’s debut album. Taylor’s angelic vocals soar, and it’s near impossible not to melt listening to the chorus. It’s vulnerable, raw, and draws goosebumps. And having The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach co-write half of the songs on her new album is a clear indication she is destined for big things. If this is the real Taylor, count us in.
2. Larry Keel- American Dream
While we’re on the topic of raw and real, we must acknowledge master flatpicker Larry Keel, and his new 10-track album American Dream. Taking it a step further with the minimalist, raw sound, Keel hangs steady with his adorned bluegrass-style picking, and delivers an album most relevant, especially these days. “I don’t wanna grow up to be another angry old white guy/Self-important all wrapped up in a white lie/It’s best when I spread happiness around/Not bringing everybody around me down.” With this first verse from the opening title track, you know you’re in for an authentic, socially conscious experience full of heart. Songs like “So Black and White” and “Try” strike with ferocity and down-home soul, and I swear I almost get a bluegrass-tinged Richie Havens-feel with some songs. Keen’s gritty, spirited vocals are like a buzz saw on this album. This is a must listen for Americana, folk, and bluegrass fans far and wide.
- Kelsey Waldon- They’ll Never Keep Us Down
If there was ever a time to cover epic socially conscious classics, it’s now. Helping lead the charge for “A South for all people” with her Kentucky-roots music, Nashville’s Kelsey Waldon echoes the sentiment of change and equality among other pressing ideals with this new 7-track covers EP. She knocks out classics like Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn,” and “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” the first song with the help of Adia Victoria and Kyshona Armstrong. She also delivers on Bob Dylan’s “With God On Our Side,” and naturally as an Oh Boy Records artist, John Prine’s, “Sam Stone.” The title track of the EP, a Hazel Dickens number, establishes the theme of social progression and resilience in a historically less-than-progressive region. The intention of this EP alone, aside from the justice done for these classic songs, earns a top spot on a list such as this.
1. “The Law Is for Protection of the People” (Kris Kristofferson)
2. “Ohio” (CSNY)
3. “Mississippi Goddam” (w/ Adia Victoria and Kyshona Armstrong) (Nina Simone)
4. “Sam Stone” (John Prine)
5. “They’ll Never Keep Us Down” (Hazel Dickins)
6. “With God on Our Side” (Bob Dylan)
7. “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” (w/ Devon Gilfillian) (Nina Simone)