Carson McHone: “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face”

No matter how much success a young artist finds down the line, there’ll always be opportunities to pay respects to their predecessors and contemporaries. Whether it’s an early choice (Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s Kicking Against the Pricks), a mid-career reset (Souxsie and the Banshees’ Through the Looking Glass), a later vocation salute (Bruce Springsteen’s We Shall Overcome), or the final chapter of a band’s studio discography (RATM’s Renegades), a collection of covers can make for a real triumph within a musician’s catalogue.

Among the Austinites with bright futures, bygone muses, and a legitimate respect for their musical elders? Our October 2016 KUTX Artist of the Month, Carson McHone ranks high. A decade removed from her debut Goodluck Man, collective millions of streams accrued for her originals, and current headquarters in Southern Ontario, Carson’s certainly manifested a fast track to international recognition. But despite that familiarity in the Folk-Americana-Country forum, McHone will still take prudent humility over precocious hubris any day, as made clear on her upcoming EP ODES, out July 19th.

Just like the title implies, ODES holds a handful of homages to some of McHone’s biggest influences from the ’60s and ’70s – including Conway Twitty, MC5, and Margo Guryan. And the EP announcement arrived this morning alongside the third of ODES‘ four covers and the EP’s lead single – Carson’s take on a Arthur Russell posthumous fan favorite with an already-rich history of cover versions from the likes of Glen Hansard and The Avett Brothers, and inherently feminine renditions on behalf of Jessie Baylin and Elizabeth Moen. But where Baylin approached “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face” entrenched in folkadelia and Moen with eggshell delicacy, Carson’s evokes her trademark warmth and Southern confidence by swapping out the original organ for a pretty straightforward acoustic-electric-guitar-and-piano pairing, all while maintaining the original’s tasteful breakdowns and painful farewells. And after watching the accompanying music video, we just can’t wait to watch Carson McHone perform this one in person…honestly with a little eye contact and face time preferred.

Giulia Millanta: “I Dance My Way”

Few people are as effervescent about their passions than those from Florence. But we’re not talking about the tiny Texas town about half an hour north of here. No, we mean the Tuscan capital that gave us cultural heavyweights like Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Gucci, Cavalli, and more.Well, in a testament to “you can take the woman out of Italy but you can’t take Italy out of the woman”, Austin multi-hyphenate Giulia Millanta‘s pace of polymath output raises her profile towards that of her legendary Florentine predecessors. She’s a professional chef and a published author. Yet Millanta still finds the time and energy to write and record original music – which doesn’t sound quite as impressive as it truly is until you factor in what all she’s working with: guitar, upright bass, ukulele, plus vocals with lyrics in English, Italian, Spanish, and French. Yeah…Giulia’s the real deal.And this year is set to be another fruitful one for Giulia Millanta’s big batch of crafts; she’s soon set to share a new Italian cookbook – Dinner with Giulia – Flavors, Songs and Stories of a Florentine Troubadour, not to mention her ninth solo full-length, Only Luna Knows on April 19th. And while yes, you can hire Millanta to cook, spin yarns, and sing songs right in your own home, you can also familiarize yourself with this indie folk innovator in some more open settings – 8:30PM this Saturday at The Purple Barn in Wimberley, 7PM next Thursday at Pecha Kucha, 6PM at Guero’s on Wednesday the 17th, and the Only Luna Knows LP release party 6PM on Saturday April 20th at Saxon Pub.So there you have it – a full course of Giulia Millanta concerts to choose from. Now treat yourself to one of Giulia’s three pieces of antipasta from the album. We recommend last Friday’s “I Dance My Way”, since it’s got that ristorante-ready arrangement of piano, electric guitar, double bass, percussion, and vocals – all for that extra zest of Texan + Tuscan twang. Mangia bene.

Anna Tivel: “Disposable Camera”

It’s a total no-brainer. 2020 and quarantine conditions left countless with a bizarre bevy of time to reflect and be inspired, no matter how dire the world felt. And with a lot of those early-COVID-era compositions, the final products reached masses within the first year or two. But some of those existential episodes must’ve made others question what the rush even is, since some of those songs still won’t land in fan’s laps until they’re just right.

It makes sense that Portland’s Anna Tivel falls in the latter category, since she’d already established herself as a modern folk force between a handful of studio albums and a few million streams by the time lockdown came around. And yet COVID didn’t seem to slow down her output. That summer, Tivel tailed 2019’s The Question with a full LP all-acoustic re-imagining, Blue World in 2021, Outsiders in 2022, and Outsiders‘ own acoustic revisit last August. In contrast to Tivel’s pensive, unhurried musical character, it’s honestly crazy to think about how quickly Tivel was cranking ’em out without sacrificing quality.

But apparently, not even all that could fully capture what Anna Tivel penned in the pandemic. Just this past Tuesday Tivel announced her sixth full-length Living Thing, set for release the final day of May. Marking a decade milestone since her debut Before Machines and nearly a half decade since the initial lockdown days, Tivel really upped the ante on Living Thing by collaborating with Bon Iver/Field Report producer Shane Leonard to meticulously maximize each track over an intensive two-month session. The record’s lead single, “Disposable Camera”? Far from a throwaway. Its minimalist music video definitely deserves a few more eyes, and the accessibility of the lyrics make “Disposable Camera” feel like flipping through all-too-familiar snapshots of the recent past. In other words…it’ll click with you.

Creekbed Carter Hogan: “If I Was”

In the past half decade, we’ve witnessed some surprisingly progressive turns in the historically conservative field of folk and country music; be it Orville Peck eclipsing his contemporaries in the mainstream, a Tracy Chapman cover dominating charts, Kacey Musgraves’ ongoing expansion of the genre’s inclusiveness, or Lil Nas X making people debate what even constitutes a country tune. It’s beyond refreshing to watch these tides shift, and thankfully for us Austinites, it’s not just a national trend.

So while we can certainly point to Pelvis Wrestley’s Benjamin Violet as a force for the androgynous queer cowboy visual aesthetic, when it comes to clear-cut alt-country and folk music, we gotta give kudos to Creekbed Carter Hogan. See, in the short time since Hogan shared their debut 2021 Good St Riddance, we’ve seen huge leaps not just in terms of musical maturity, but indeed through major milestones like legally changing their name, having their uterus removed, and publishing their first book. And through this transition, CCH has created a powerful advantage that makes him stand out in the crowded world of Americana-country-folk, and that’s his unique vocal register, much higher than the majority of men but not necessarily feminine in character.

Well, following up last Spring’s Split EP, Creekbed Carter Hogan is taking things to the next level with their eponymous sophomore full-length Creekbed Carter, out March 22nd. Style-wise it maintains the same blunt, clever, and intrinsically queer twist on roots music we’ve come to adore. But strictly speaking to audio quality, it’s a huge step up from the CCH’s relatively lo-fi discography thus far, with glistening sonics that’ll fill a stereo just as well as it could the Grande Ole Opry. Based on what we’ve heard so far, we’re even willing to wager that Creekbed Carter could challenge Golden Hour when it comes to the finest mixes in acoustic music. So as these Texas temps slowly creep up, crawl into the Creekbed with Hogan for a single release show 8PM this Saturday at Radio/East alongside Large Brush Collection, Kind Keith, and Leila Sunier. Until then, show Hogan some love in the streambed by giving a spin to the record’s first offering, “If I Was”. Because at five-and-a-half minutes, bordered by the prettiest instrumental string arrangement we’ve heard all year (which includes Pelvis Wrestley’s Zach Wiggs on pedal steel and Little Mazarn’s Lindsey Verrill on bass), and joined by Large Brush Collection’s Nora Predey and Grabiela Torres in its climax, “If I Was” marks a melancholy beginning for trans folk’s next generation.

Ethan Azarian: “Hawaii”

Us Austinites love to brag about living in the “Live Music Capital of the World”. But that moniker’s not just a matter of venue multiplicity; no, there’s something about our city limits that not only creates a gravitational pull, but also dips newcomers right into a fast-acting melting pot.Case in point? Ethan Azarian, a Vermont-raised singer-songwriter-painter who moved down here in the late ’80s shortly before founding a quickly-beloved local institution, The Orange Mothers. Well, outside of the Mothers, Azarian’s also an accomplished solo folk/pop artist, and on top of raising Blue Cow Studios from the ground up and more recently spearheading the Songwriter’s Happy Hour at Hole in the Wall, two decades after the release of his solo introduction Captain of the Town, Ethan’s still going strong.As a matter of fact, just in time for this big freeze, Ethan Azarian’s offering up a much-welcomed change of scenery with his latest full-length Hawaii. Featuring not just the album artwork of Ethan’s son Francis but some really tasteful piano and organ as well, Hawaii is a gorgeous, sans-percussion folk family affair. And you can see the father-son chemistry live at a free show 7PM this Saturday at the Cactus Cafe with fellow Hawaii contributors Lindsey Verrill, Jeff Johnston, and special guest Amy Annelle. By then we’ll have warmed up just enough to want to get out, thanks in no small part to Hawaii‘s title track. Despite its beautifully-barren, wintry arrangement, the lyrics that carry “Hawaii” paint a transportive tropical portrait of volcanos, green waters, and enveloping island voices.

Middle Sattre: “Hate Yourself to the Core”

The 1998 flick SLC Punk! entertained audiences with all kinds of counterculture cliques, and in doing so, they also exposed Utah’s more ingrained sociopolitical climate – that of Reagan-era republicans, yuppies, and the Mormon church. Whether or not the movie feels “authentic” to you, it’s not unreasonable to guess there’ve been plenty more who’ve felt oppressed in the SLC area since the turn of the millennium.

Take for instance singer-songwriter Hunter Prueger, who spent much of his life repressing his intrinsically gay identity under strict Mormon tutelage. Solo home recordings in Salt Lake City, borrowing from the DIY philosophies of noise music, provided Prueger with some much-needed solace. In 2022 Prueger’s project Middle Sattre (pronounced “sat-tree”) relocated to the so-called “blueberry in the tomato soup” here in Austin, Texas, and soon expanded into a six-piece, then eventually the experimental folk octet we know today. Unbound by obsolescent beliefs, this eight-piece continues to defy convention, even when it comes to how their instruments are played.

Middle Sattre embarked on their maiden tour last July, shared their first studio single “Pouring Water” in September, and followed that up with powerful pair of originals in November. All of this sets the stage of Middle Sattre’s debut album, Tendencies, out February 9th. At just shy of an hour long and sporting song titles like “I Once Felt Safe”, “Imperfect Hands”, and “Seven Years Since the Fall”, Tendencies is a deeply confessional saga of queer self-acceptance. That vulnerable, candid character glows throughout the record’s fourth lead single, “Hate Yourself to the Core”, releasing midnight tonight. Its lyrics chronicle Prueger’s deep-seated anguish, ideations of self-harm, and repeated depletions of self-esteem, and its gorgeous string sonics perfectly capture such shared experiences of disquiet. When combined, “Hate Yourself to the Core” sounds like a next generation Elliott Smith song that can comfort anyone who’s ever faced similar desperation.

Great Howl: “Violent Wind”

After an especially excruciating summer, the sound of strong winds this past week proved a symphony to our ears. Whether or not that cold front ushers in a full winter season, we’ve been blessed with a chilly aesthetic that’ll keep our spirits warm for months. Which brings us to a fresh Austin octet.

Founded and fronted by multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Matt Mossman, Great Howl captures the best of indie, folk, chamber pop, and rock into a specific kind of soft intensity, almost like if Arcade Fire started crashing with Neutral Milk Hotel and decided not to check out. Less of a caterwaul and more of a mighty bay, we’ve already heard the first instance of Great Howl’s clever dynamics on their first studio single “Meet Your Maker”, released back in September. That tune not only introduced us to the eight-piece’s unique style, but also set the stage for their upcoming debut EP of the same name.

Produced by SMiiLE frontman Jake Miles, Meet Your Maker hits streaming December 15th, with a release show the previous evening at Swan Dive with Sammy G and Dog Island. But if you want to enjoy the weather as it stands right now, your best bet is to catch Great Howl 8PM this Sunday at Coral Snake, alongside Sad Pajamas, Gummy Fang, and Divine Calypso. Either way, Meet Your Maker‘s gale of a sophomore single (which just blew in this morning) “Violent Wind” will blow out any pre-existing earworms with four minutes of carefully subdued orchestral vigor that escalates from a slight breeze of trebly riffs into tempestuous hooks and a real storm of an instrumental outro before settling down with a lulling piano chord. Don’t batten down the hatches; just turn up your headphones and set “Violent Wind” to “repeat”.

B.R. Lively: “Hope in My Heart”

With the oppressive heat and an especially tantalizing 24-hour news cycle, it’s worth taking a moment or two to just breath. So while neither we nor the artists we curate can claim to be mindfulness experts, we feel like today’s feature is pretty fitting for anyone in need of a mindset shift. It comes courtesy of Austin multi-instrumentalist-singer-songwriter Bryan Richard Blaylock (better known as B.R. Lively), whose well…livelihood….lies roughly within the boundaries of folk, outlaw country, southern R&B, and jazz. Lyrically Lively derives a lot from literature, but rest assured, his tunes aren’t so high brow that they’re inaccessible to the layperson. Lively first crested over the horizon with his debut Into the Blue in 2017, and tracked a companion piece fast in the aftermath. Well after nearly a half decade of solo touring across the US, Lively’s back in Austin and eager to unleash those counterpart recordings from their hard drive confines. Where Lively considers Into the Blue as an introspective, melancholic inhale, his sophomore follow-up People completes the process of process aural respiration with an exhalation of poignant wisdom, emotional growth, and realistic optimism; a Yin to Into the Blue‘s Yang. Lively takes the stage next Tuesday at High Noon for the People release show alongside Lola and returns the following Tuesday with Brothers of Mercy. But with scant chances of rain between now and then, let’s leverage those aspirations with “Hope in My Heart”. Co-produced by Band of Heathens collaborator Gordy Quist, mixed by Robert Ellis/Khruangbin engineer Steve Christensen, and arranged by string-and-horn visionary Thomas Avery, the sense of space, level of polish, and discipline of performance on this waltz are all nothing short of jaw-dropping. And as auspicious as it is awe-inspiring, “Hope in My Heart” will reward you with the essence of its title whenever the bleakness has got you feeling meek.

Tender Wolf: “Good Day”

The dog days formally end this Friday, but each triple new digit forecast says otherwise. So while we approve of any and all forms of aestivation throughout this enduring inferno, we’re pretty blown away by all the projects that’ve premiered throughout this historic summer. One perfect example from right here in Austin? Tender Wolf. Founded by singer-guitarist J. Summar, cellist Courtney Waldron Daehne (both of Milktoast Millie & the Scabby Knees), Moving Panoramas/Sanco Loop drummer Phil McJunkins, and Schatzi bassist-vocalist Chris Nine, Tender Wolf began their languid bay back in June with their debut single “Piccadilly”. We’re not mussing up the four-piece’s fur when we say that they’re still in a pup stage, but between “Piccadilly” and Tender Wolf’s sophomore follow-up that just dropped last weekend, their brilliantly bleak folk-rock originals are plenty promising enough to make us want to get in good with the pack. So before the quartet takes the stage 8PM next Friday at Captain Quackenbush’s along with Bridey Murphy, let Tender Wolf take a bite out of your summertime blues with “Good Day”. Orchestral-grunge verses rev up to big impact choruses, but the real star of “Good Day” is its instrumental interplay; deft snare brushes and agile acoustic guitar riffs paw around steady cello swells, pizzicato plucks, and a minimalist bass line, creating a cozy foundation for those featherweight vocal harmonies.

Noni Culotta: “Gimme Sunshine”

Happy Fourth of July! As with basically any other autonomous country who celebrates their independence, the United States of America’s origin story came amidst some turmoil to say the least. But today we’re looking at another set of cross-national new beginnings courtesy of Noni Culotta.

Like countless non-native New Yorkers, Culotta’s escapades in the Big Apple only came after she was bit by the acting bug. Once up there though, Culotta recalled the traditional Irish American songs that filled her youth, embraced the spirit of busking, and went to work, eventually leveling up from subway platforms to the many bars and theatres abound in Brooklyn and Manhattan. This is when the turmoil turned up. The crushing weight of sudden COVID conditions, complicated further by a divorce, led Culotta to the tough choice of leaving the scene in which she’d seeded herself for a decade and relocating from one metropolitan area to another; from NYC to ATX.

It didn’t take all that long for Noni to acclimate back to her home state and click with fellow contributors to our “Live Music Capital”, thanks in no small part to her ever-growing repertoire of folk-pop originals in the ilk of Iris DeMent or late Austin City Limits veteran Nanci Griffith. With a reported hundred songs under her belt and an incandescent voice to match, Noni Culotta cut down her colossal collection of originals down to fourteen of some of her most heartfelt tunes and began arranging with her dream team of collaborators. The result is Noni’s debut full-length Gimme Sunshine, which came out towards the tail end of June. Looking at the forecast, that request for rays has been obliged just in time for July 4th, and the LP’s title track enters the pantheon of great “Gimme” songs, but where More, Danger, Shelter, and All Your Lovin’ tote somewhat of a “rockstar” edge, “Gimme Sunshine” instead radiates with wholesome Pet Sounds-meets-Tapestry energy whose luminous licks will have you photosynthesizing for months to come.

Sidney Scott: “Maybe You Were Right”

Historically, a native Austinite status set you on an accessible, auspicious trajectory towards making music. But of course, as tech culture eclipses the “weird” Live Music Capital character that Austin’s clung on to since the ’70s, it just doesn’t happen as much any more. So while simply being born within the city limits isn’t enough to guarantee the songwriter’s lifestyle, having musical parents sure as heck helps. See: Sidney Scott. Raised by a professional singer and a professional woodwind player, Sidney’s childhood in the Scott household was always chock full of good tunes. So when Sidney started discovering her own pipes, her folks weren’t necessarily looking to maintain a family legacy in music…but they certainly weren’t hypocrites either; they encouraged Sidney to follow her own passion, and we’re awfully glad they did. In 2021 Sidney Scott shared a pair of standalone studio singles, showing off her proclivity for soul, jazz, folk, and blues, not to mention an incredible grasp on vocal performance. Today, as part of her patient plans to drop her debut EP tentatively in 2024, Sidney Scott gives us a sneak peek at her unique hybridizing process. What began as an iPhone voice memo attempting to capture the best of both Brandi Carlile and Lake Street Dive was fully fleshed out by seasoned Austin producer Ray Prim and a form-fitting four-piece backing band. This latest original is a sensuous piece of gospel-soul that from its first organ-vocal unison through its sparkling firecracker choruses, billowed arrangement nuances, and Shirley Bassey-meets-Amy Winehouse final falsetto vibrato, years from now, when looking back at those of us who recognized Scott’s promising potential, might just make you say “Maybe You Were Right”

American Dreamer: “Medicine Hat”

We all know that Austin’s far outgrown its once humble status as a cool college town. So with the current tech culture/Live Music Capital dichotomy, it’s no wonder we also often overlook institutions right in our own backyard. But we can’t forget about the Butler School of Music at UT Austin, which attracts, molds, and produces a ton of talent. For instance, there’s Austin folk quartet American Dreamer, who first met as grad students at Butler and began collaborating in the mid-2010s. With collective decades of formal training under their belt, this festival-proven four-piece builds on an already impressive ability to play off one another, leading to nuanced in-the-pocket arrangements that just keep getting better and better. Although their 2016 debut Restless Nights may have explored harder, more modern regions of Americana rock, 2018’s Go Where You Go and subsequent singles, ripe with themes of travel and nature, champion our continent’s rich roots music history. With American Dreamer’s upcoming third full-length, the songs steer further away from percussion than ever before, giving us some of the band’s most transportive and string-rich tunes to date, as already heard on 2023’s “Little Bird”, “Railway Bound for Mercy”, and “Heaven’s Child”. American Dreamer drops July 14th with a release show that same evening at the 04 Center and the record’s final lead single “Medicine Hat” (though lyrically pining over a missed loved one) will take you straight to the porch of a rustic Alberta cabin thanks to wanderlust-inspiring chords and a wilderness-thick dynamic range embedded in synchronous instrumental interplay and blossoming vocal harmonies.

Dan Peters: “Jenny Lake”

As a native Austinite that rarely spends a week out of eyeshot of our ever-elevating skyline, I’m hardwired to be somewhat of a city slicker. So I’m always kind of surprised when a folk performer decides to settle down in our noisy, crowded, metropolitan hub. But hey, more folk music for us, right?

Among those we’ve welcomed with wide open arms is pianist-guitarist-vocalist Dan Peters, whose current urban digs are a stark contrast from his coastal Massachusetts upbringing. Dan moved down here at the turn of the decade not only to pursue a career as an environmental scientist but also to reap the benefits of residing in the Live Music Capital. As a result, when he’s not off the grid collecting empirical data, he’s playing keys with local bossa nova/tropicalia outfit Nossas Novas. But of course, with his love of North American landscapes in mind, Peters naturally gravitates towards folk in the vein of Wilco and John Prine as a solo songwriter.

Rooted in such (and in line with the wilderness-inspired titles of his existing standalone tracks “Bottom of the Sea” and “The Birds Are Louder in Texas”), Dan Peters drops his Ramble Creek-recorded debut EP Ocean and the Wind this June. Based on Ocean and the Wind‘s fiddle-infused lead single “Jenny Lake”, which takes us on a cross-country trek from toasty Texas to the snow-capped peaks and tranquil pools of Wyoming, we’re expecting a wholesome Americana-folk sonic safari in store for us this summer.

Sol Chase: “Moonwalker”

It’s fascinating how many wholesome qualities folk and bluegrass fulfill: the importance of a tight-knit family, a primal connection to nature, and earning keep strictly through musical means. And to be completely honest, if those genres weren’t so overwhelmingly positive, they’d almost seem more like an antiquated cult. But instead of indoctrination and manipulative reprogramming of the meek-minded, some of the best bluegrass and folk hedonists were simply bred right into that bucolic lifestyle.

Just look at the upbringing behind mandolinist Sol Chase, who was raised by a hippie tribe that practiced their craft in European forests and festivals alike. Trips to civilization were often reserved for street side busking, a habit Chase continued after retreating to the campfires and cordillera of rural Colorado. Sol Chase essentially only appeared “on the grid” once he relocated down to Austin close to a decade back. In that time Chase recorded with Third Eye Blind, opened for the likes of Shinyribs, and basically immersed himself in Texas’ sprawling jamgrass scene as a must-hear master mandolinist.

Now, Sol Chase did decide to split town last year in favor of more wanderlust with his sweetheart Evergreen, but not before recording his solo debut with some of Austin’s finest players. The Eclectic Life of an Only Child was engineered by Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Sublime contributor Charles Godfrey, who helped instill a heightened sense of clarity for this four-song collection of personal memories, semi-fabricated fables, and emotionally-piercing parables. The Eclectic Life of an Only Child drops this Friday ahead of a 7:30PM release show at The Cactus Cafe and a late night set 1AM next Thursday at Old Settler’s Music Festival.

But Sol Chase isn’t exactly constrained by time and place, so why should you be? Like a bark-built acoustic rocket sparking up, clearing a tree line, and ascending into orbit, the Eclectic Life‘s latest single, “Moonwalker” builds up from a droning long tone into a zero-gravity instrumental gallop. “Moonwalker” wows with moody motifs, Appalachian-inspired intervals, and extensive solo sections that feature fiddle, flute, and of course, mandolin. So if you’re not ready to soak up the summer rays shining today, let Sol Chase help you flip the celestial switch into a lively lunar stroll.

Andy Aylward: “No Surrender”

Whether its a stubborn molecule of toxic masculinity, a frank reflection on the fragility of life, or just a brash rock ‘n’ roll stereotype, “getting soft with age” is an oft-repeated adage, especially in the world of music. In the decade-long natural maturation of tastes between one’s preteens and post-grad explorations, there can be an almost parodic adrenaline-and-amp-addicted attitude that prefers to “die young” instead of “grow up”. And while claiming a traditional genre like folk is “hard” in contrast to say…punk rock sounds a bit silly, of course it’s all in the ear of the beholder. For London-born, Washington, D.C.-raised, and Austin-based songwriter Andy Aylward? A steady progression into soft-folk-rock hasn’t curbed any of the observational petulance of his adolescent punk days nor the nihilism of his post-college psychedelic experiences. Now whisked in the relative wisdom of his thirties, Aylward does make a conscious effort to eschew overt pessimism from his originals. But as heard on Andy Aylward’s 2019 solo debut Sometimes Rain, neither interjections of hope nor gallows humor mask the beautifully bleak honesty of his folksy poetry. Riding off a historically wayward relationship with cheap wine, bygone breakups, and the cross-country moves that eventually brought Aylward to Texas, Remember Me Like Birds On The Wind doesn’t relent an inch away from Andy’s intrinsic earnestness. These eight introspective, sparse arrangements were mixed by Fruit Bats/Kevin Morby producer D. James Goodwin for a minimalist affair that features The Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly, Stephen “Sweet Baboo” Black, and Captain Beefheart’s J.T. Thomas. Last Friday, ahead of Remember Me‘s April 25th release date, Aylward unleashed the album’s lead single that syncs up J.T. Thomas with trumpet-for-hire Paul Brandenburg for a jaunty jangler that just doesn’t give up, “No Surrender”.

Alison Brown: “Sun and Water (Here Comes the Sun/Waters of March)”

Concerning instruments with gorgeous tones and rich cultural histories, the banjo is often overlooked. And it makes sense to some extent; outside the roots world, banjo is rarely front and center. But when an innovator like Béla Fleck or Alison Brown comes along, it’s a refreshing reminder of banjo’s intrinsic magic.

Brown has bred an impressive legacy of success that stretches back to the early ’80s. Shortly after she was recruited into Alison Krauss’ Union Station, the title track for I’ve Got That Old Feeling won the Grammy for “Best Bluegrass Recording”, the same year Brown’s own album Simple Pleasures scored a nominated for “Best Bluegrass Album”. She co-founded Compass Records in 1995, the label that released Fair Weather in 2000, which earned Brown the “Best Country Instrumental Performance” Grammy for her Béla Fleck collaboration, “Leaving Cottondale”.

But at the turn of the 2010s, after two decades of consistent solo releases, Brown began to focus on production. As such, the last LP we received from Alison Brown was 2015’s The Song of the Banjo. Well, coming up this summer, the five-string phenom returns with the succinctly-titled On Banjo. On Banjo finds Brown and her eponymous quintet trading licks with the likes of The Kronos Quartet, Anat Cohen, Sierra Hull and more. Alongside pleasant surprises like the Steve Martin co-written “Foggy Morning Breakdown”, you’ll also hear more exotic explorations into Brazilian sounds when On Banjo drops May 5th.

Maintaining Brown’s boundary-less repertoire for cross-genre compositions, On Banjo‘s lead single masterfully mashes up The Beatles with Antônio Carlos Jobim for a spring stroll-ready medley, “Sun and Water (Here Comes the Sun/Waters of March)”.

Ley Line: “Sometimes”

Here at KUTX 98.9, we’ve never been too shy about our love of Ley Line. Since naming Ley Line as our October 2019 Artist of the Month, this language-crazed Austin-based quartet has become somewhat of a Song of the Day and Austin Music Minute darling. And that’s for a damn good reason.

If you follow Ley Line on socials you already know what we mean; whether it’s writing, recording, touring, performing, or soaking up influences across the globe, these four folk femmes always seem to be doing something. And in 2023, as they celebrate one whole decade since first meeting at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, we’re somewhat expecting Ley Line to surprise us with something else between now and their set at Old Settler’s Music Fest in April.

But until then, we’ll have to tide ourselves over with Ley Line’s latest studio single, which was last March’s “High Tide” up until today. This morning Ley Line woke up singing, had a cup, and poured up a Folger’s-fresh reflection on life’s sweeter moments. “Sometimes” tops that optimism off with soft vocals that effortlessly alternate between unison and harmony, breezy strings that’ll set your mind at ease, and a naturalistic, percussion-less arrangement that reminds us – you don’t need to march to the beat of anyone’s drum but the sun’s.

Slaid Cleaves: “Second Hand” [PREMIERE]

While we here at KUTX celebrate our 10th birthday, it’s worth revisiting the folks who were KUT 90.5 heavyweights well before 98.9 FM’s call letters were even born. Among that roster of Central Texas mainstays is a real character of the airwaves, singer-guitarist Slaid Cleaves. It’s crazy to think that his breakout fifth LP No Angel Knows came out all the way back in 1997, especially considering that Slaid’s continued to cut through the competition like a certain kitchen utensil. Which, to maintain a presence in the Live Music Capital for more than a quarter century, is easier said than done…even with a pretty consistent three-to-four-year release rate such as Slaid’s.

On that note, diehard Slaid-heads (including horror legend Stephen King) might’ve become bereaved by Cleaves’ lack of post-pandemic output. Good news! On March 3rd Slaid slides back in with Together Through the Dark, his first studio offering since 2017’s Ghost on the Car Radio, and celebrates with an album release show later that month at The 04 Center. As you can imagine from the title, Together Through the Dark champions empathy in uncertain times, mainly anchored by Cleaves’ idiosyncratic storytelling but also applicable to the sans-power solidarity we’ve had the past couple weeks in Central Texas.

However it hits you, TTtD contains some of Slaid’s most mature folk-Americana compositions to date and a beautifully flawed sense of human confidence we could all appreciate right about now. So if you want to be the first of your friends to get your mitts on the new Slaid, set the needle down on the record’s third single “Second Hand”. Like a vintage Plymouth carrying you across your routine stops, “Second Hand” steers straight with easily-navigable chord changes, gentle harmonies, and as with all things Cleaves, a relatable narrative. After all, who thinks being a thrifty family man is unfashionable?

Jill Barber: “Hell No”

When we watch characters like Marge Simpson or Mad Men‘s Betty Draper, their “homemaker” status is typically the butt of a joke. However after plenty of post-lockdown reflections, the status quo has clearly shifted back to domestic preferences. And although she’s worked damn hard for her planet-spanning, twenty-plus-year success, Canada’s Jill Barber is ready to put aside almost all of it in favor of motherhood and marriage. Almost. Barber boasts a discography dating back to 2002, an impressive list of international festival appearances, three JUNO nominations, countless awards, song placement in programs like Orange is the New Black, ambassadorship with Save the Children, bilingual fluency, and oh yeah, authorship of two children’s books. With a decade of marriage under her belt and a couple kids tied to her hip, this highly-decorated debonair has entered her forties with the maternal wisdom that you simply can’t rush greatness, nor should you ascribe to outdated norms. Sure, Jill still mixes a potpourri of infectious folk arrangements and seductive jazz vocals within perspicacious pop formulas. But she’s also eager to reclaim and re-appropriate the term “homemaker” on her eleventh full-length of the same name, out next Friday. Homemaker is a jubilant piece of musical matriarchy and cooperation, plain and simple, one that recognizes that nobody succeeds alone, that twice the work for half the pay is a raw deal. Barber’s latest cut comes straight from her creative nerve center in Vancouver, British Columbia and serves as her first as co-producer, yet another testament to the power of nurturing together. So if you want to stave off these statewide winter shivers, harness the warmth of emotional energy within Homemaker and say heck yeah to “Hell No”.

Jeremy Nail: “Open Door”

Yesterday we celebrated the intrinsic ingenuity of human creativity, but we didn’t touch on one of the most important aspects: writing your way through trauma. It’s a healing property that goes all the way back to the ancient storytelling tradition of African percussion, but for Austin-based singer-guitarist Jeremy Nail, the weightiest wounds were his 2012 cancer diagnosis and subsequent amputation of his left leg. Nail worked through that pain on his 2016 Alejandro Escovedo-produced LP My Mountain, after which he seemed to hit a new stride. However, as with the rest of the world, Nail was confronted by the uncomfortable isolation and disquiet left in COVID’s wake. Because of that, Jeremy Nail’s created yet another piece of fulfilling folk therapy for his fifth full-length, Behind The Headlights. Behind The Headlights heralds the importance of being in the moment, giving yourself space to be alone with your thoughts, reflecting over loss, and planning for the future. The album rolls out next Friday, the same day that Jeremy Nail performs in-store at Waterloo Records. He’ll also be playing Saturday the 27th at Cactus Cafe with opener Kevin McKinney. But before you dive right back into live music, heed Nail’s mission to improve mental health with the soothing respite that is Behind The Headlights‘ serene central bulb, “Open Door”.