Justin Townes Earle (New York & Nashville) – While Justin Townes Earle never quite sways outside of the wide-reaching genre of Americana, each of his albums has sounded different from the one that preceded it. As we mentioned a few months back, Earle’s new album, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now (AmazonMP3 & Spotify), can best be categorized as Memphis soul. However, every album JTE has released consistently maintains a deep honesty about the man behind the song. The new album opens with “Am I That Lonely Tonight,” a slower tune that tells of Justin’s longing for a call from his famed father. The 10-track album was recorded completely live with no overdubs over a 4-day period at an old converted church recording studio in Asheville, NC. While it’s not my favorite of Earle’s albums, it’s one that I’ve been listening to over and over again for months. He remains in my top five for best artists in Americana today.
Sidenote and shameless plug: I actually got to produce a launch/listening party for the album and Samsung’s new vacuum tube audio products at Hotel on Rivington last week. It was awesome. (DISCLOSURE: Samsung is my client at Weber Shandwick…and yes, I picked JTE for this event.)
Patrick Dethlefs (Kittredge, Colorado) – Another young songwriter discovered by way of the Old Hills, Young Mountain project is Tacoma, Washington-born Patrick Dethlefs. Dethlefs has recorded two albums and a Daytrotter session and will release a third album in June. His first, Stays the Same (AmazonMP3, Spotify & Bandcamp), has been a favorite of mine for the last month, with “Dads Song” and “Let’s Go” standing out. Dethlefts’s sophomore album, Eye & The Arrow (Bandcamp), is also impressive (especially “Sheep and Goats”), but is more on the indie end of the spectrum. Dethlefts has performed in the past with Ben Sollee. This is one to watch.
The Deep Dark Woods (Saskatchewan, Canada) – Here’s another one of those bands that I’m embarrassed I’ve never written about. On the docket for Merelfest, Newport and even Birmingham’s Secret Stages, is Canada’s The Deep Dark Woods. The band’s latest album, The Place I Left Behind (AmazonMP3 & Spotify), is laced with incredible guitar, petal steel and fiddle solos that make me feel like I’ve been beamed from my Brooklyn studio to Appalachia. I love this album and the several that preceded it.
Laura Gibson (Coquille, Oregon) – When Oregonian Laura Gibson released Beasts of Season in 2009, NPR called it “nothing short of a masterpiece.” Her latest album, La Grande (AmazonMP3 & Spotify), released in January, is named for a town where Gibson wrote many of its songs. She describes the town as a place that “people usually pass through on their way to somewhere else, but which contains a certain gravity, a curious energy.” Gibson made an impressive appearance at an NPR Tiny Desk Concert early last month, playing a few songs from the album. Check it.
Earl Scruggs (Nashville) – At an 80th birthday party for Earl Scruggs in 2004, Porter Wagoner said, “Earl was to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball.” Scruggs died in Nashville last week. Few bluegrass playlists I’ve made have lacked a few tracks off of ‘Tis Sweet To Be Remembered (AmazonMP3 & Spotify). I actually got to see Earl play in Newport last year and saw him him struggling to make it off the stage following his set (watching from backstage). While he will be greatly missed and he played a badass set that day, I think he was ready to go. Checkout memorials from The New York Times (watch the video) and NPR.
Julian Lage (Boston) – I first discovered progressive jazz/folk guitarist Julian Lage back in 2009. After noticing him on the bill at this past week’s Savannah Music Festival, I checked out his latest album, Gladwell (AmazonMP3 & Spotify). Great record, which includes his rendition of “Freight Train,” one of my favorite old folk songs.
P.S. Yeah, this column is call the First Sunday Six…it’s been a busy one.