Andrew Combs (Nashville) – Alongside of gcb favorites Rayland Baxter, Caitlin Rose, and Angel Snow, Dallas-native Andrew Combs comes from a new breed of young Americana songwriters in Nashville. Last week, Combs released Worried Man (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), an album we previewed at the release of two of its singles – “Take it From Me” and “Big Bad Love.” The album, which I’ve been listening to for the last month, falls in the same Americana sub-category with Jason Isbelle, who Combs will tour with in the coming weeks, and Justin Towne’s Earle’s latest album, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. Combs appropriately calls his sound “country-folk.” While it’s something that CMT pop country fans might get into, it’s an album that Americana snobs will love for its modern-Buddy Miller-esque ominous outlaw tracks, fantastic pedal steel throughout and the damn fine voice of Mr. Combs. The toe-tapping opening track, “Devil’s Got My Woman,” and whiskey-swaying “Too Stoned to Cry” are my favorites. Check out this Nashville Scene Q&A with Combs for more.
Andrew Bird (Chicago) – Shortly after Andrew Bird released Break It Yourself, I saw him at WNYC’s Greene Space performing as a duo with my long lost friend, Alan Hampton, on bass (here’s a clip of “Orpheo Looks Back” from that day – one of my favorite songs released this year). That all acoustic performance around one mic (and many other “old-time” sets like it on Bird’s tour) received such an amazing response that it prompted Bird to last week release Hands of Glory (Amazon MP3 & Spotify). A companion piece to Break It Yourself, the album features reinterpretations of songs from its sister album and covers of classic country tunes. Of note, is a rendition of “Orpheo” and the opener “Three White Horses” (great video here), but this album is loaded with gorgeous violin solos and instrumentation in every track. I could listen to just this for weeks. Alan and Tift Merritt joined Bird on Letterman last week (in the audience-less Ed Sullivan Theater thanks to Sandy) where Letterman gives a special and much deserved shout out to Tift Merritt. Catch a special performance of the album at New York’s Riverside Church near Columbia on December 10 & 11.
Freelance Whales (Queens) – Sufjan is not the only one who can layer a banjo over electronic tunes. While Freelance Whales are a few steps away from the grass clippings center, we’ve liked them since their hugely popular performance at the 2011 Newport Folk Festival. Last month, the band released Diluvia (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), a record, according to the band, about “the possible survival – or peril – of space- faring humans and other arguably fantastical scenarios.” Splendid. Like previous albums, the band blends organic acoustic sounds with synthesizers. There are still tickets available for the band’s rescheduled show at Webster Hall this Wednesday, which now includes a gcb-applauded special donation to the Mayor’s fund for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Black Prairie (Portland) – Black Prairie, the bluegrass-lovin’ contingency of The Decemberists and some of their Oregonian bluegrass-lovin’ pals, released their sophomore album back in September and it’s just dandy. Loaded with brilliant fiddle and accordion solos, ominous, quiet near-a-cappella vocals and Celtic folk sound, A Tear in the Eye Is a Wound in the Heart (Amazon MP3 & Spotify) is gorgeous, and tons of fun to listen (and dance) to. You can see the band at the Mercury Lounge on Saturday.
Nels Andrews (Brooklyn/Santa Cruz) – Back in April, Brooklyn/Santa Cruz singer-songwriter released Scrimshaw (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), an album of stories culled from a time off the road and working as a chauffer in Manhattan. Well produced by Todd Sickafoose (Anais Mitchell, Ani Difranco, Andrew Bird), Andrews’s Josh Ritter-esque storytelling is topped with an excellent mix of grassy accompaniment. If you buy CDs, you’ll like this one’s case and its Herman Melville-esque theme.
Kat Edmonson (Austin/NYC) – Way Down Low (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), the sophomore album of Texas-native Kat Edmonson, debuted at the #1 spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart at its release in April. Since then, the album has since sold over 12k copies. Last month, NPR released Edmonson’s Tiny Desk concert featuring my brilliant, long-time friend Steve Elliott on guitar. The ten minute performance is a testament to why Edmonson won acclaim from Texan music gods Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett who embraced her early in her career. Lovett invited Edmonson to sing on his latest album and then joined hers as well. She also made a surprise appearance at Lovett’s Prospect Park set over the summer. Edmonson opens for Gary Clarke Jr.’s sold out show on Wednesday at the Bowery Ballroom.