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Hear This: Fresh Tunes

Download these new must-hear albums to jazz up your drive to the resort or backcountry.

photo courtesy Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless  “Daughter”

Details: Alt-country rocker Lydia Loveless just returned with her first new album in four years, channeling the emotional upheaval of a divorce and road exhaustion into the songs on her latest effort, “Daughter.” Following a period of deep reflection and a move to North Carolina, where she slowly crafted her new album’s 10 tracks, Loveless traveled to Chicago to record at Wilco’s studio, The Loft. The result features Loveless at her most candid, especially in the lead single “Love is Not Enough,” which laments a draining relationship.

Own Words: “For the first time I felt completely insecure about what I’d made,” she explains. “But recording brought things back into focus. I couldn’t back out of playing and explaining my songs and vision.”

The War and Treaty “Hearts Town”

Details: Coming off the lauded 2018 breakout effort “Healing Tide,” husband-and-wife duo Michael Trotter and Tonya Blount-Trotter roared into September with another set of uplifting gospel-rock highlighted by the couple’s intimate and energetic vocal interplay. The new effort shifts between roots-based styles, from the classic soul of the heartfelt love songs “Five More Minutes” to the haunting rock dirge “Beautiful,” which features an appearance by singer songwriter Jason Isbell on guitar. The album’s title comes from the nickname the group has for their loyal fan base.

Own Words: “Hearts Town is a neighborhood strictly made up of people who all share the same kind of heart: hearts that love, hearts that heal, hearts that don’t see division,” says Trotter. “There’s all different types of people within that neighborhood, but they’re still somehow all working together—which is exactly the kind of town we want to live in.”

Steep Canyon Rangers “Arm in Arm”

Details: Southern bluegrass aces Steep Canyon Rangers have been on a prolific streak, following up last year’s two releases—the live record “North Carolina Songbook” and collaborative “Best Still Moses,” which found the band working with the Asheville Symphony and the R&B outfit Boyz II Men. “Arm in Arm,” the band’s 13th album, which will be released on October 16th, is a studio set of 11 new originals, recorded in Nashville with producer with Brandon Bell (Zac Brown, John Prine). The Grammy-winning pickers keep stretching their acoustic borders, embracing anthemic country-rock in new album standout “Every River.”

Own Words: “The record is all over the place. It captures a lot of different layers of the Rangers and some new layers,” lead singer and guitarist Woody Platt told the band’s hometown newspaper, the Asheville Citizen-Times, back in the summer.

Delta Spirit “What Is There”

Details: Delta Spirit had big plans for their long-awaited reunion, including a lengthy tour and high-profile festival appearances. The shows will have to wait until (hopefully) 2021, but in the meantime the band just released “What Is There,” their first album in six years, last month. After a restorative hiatus, the indie roots-rock mainstays sound rejuvenated on tracks like the soulful, dance-ready “It Ain’t Easy.” 

Own Words: “I’m really proud of our body of work, but especially proud of where everybody has gotten to now,” front man Matthew Logan Vasquez, said in a statement, admitting the 15-year old band really needed the break before being able to reunite for recording sessions in Texas. “I have a lot of hope for us. There’s a lot of raw honesty in the music. It’s a record for right now, instead of pandering to the past. It’s the next step.”

New Covers

In late summer, two covers-based albums surfaced that reinterpret familiar material in new ways. Fruit Bats—the performing moniker of indie folk singer-songwriter Eric D. Johnson—recently dropped a full reboot of the Smashing Pumpkins’ 1994 landmark “Siamese Dream.” Johnson plays all of the instruments on the record, and in his hands the album loses its angsty fuzz in favor of dreamy acoustic arrangements. Most lovely is his take on the ubiquitous radio hit “Today,” which sways effortlessly as a pastoral folk waltz. 

Also, flat-picking guitar wiz and introspective singer-songwriter Molly Tuttle released a full LP of various songs by some of her favorite artists called “…But I’d rather be with you.” The title comes from lyrics in the Grateful Dead’s “Standing on the Moon,” which Tuttle imbues with an emotive country lilt, but the eclectic collection features tunes by a wide range of acts, including the Rolling Stones, FKA Twigs, and Harry Styles. Tuttle started the project while sheltering at home in Nashville back in March, and then, as pandemic collaborations go these days, remotely worked with producer Tony Berg (Phoebe Bridgers) and some guest musicians, including Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor. 

The album’s standout is a delicately futuristic reading of The National’s “Fake Empire,” which replaces the original’s dark piano chords with airy, percussive acoustic guitar, adding an atmospheric, soul-searching layer to the song’s message of apathetic indifference.  —J.F.

Cover Photo: The War and Treaty wowed us with a hot new album.  

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