Sometimes tumultuous times bring out the best in songwriters. And if there’s a theme to Garden & Gun’s November playlist, it is the power of resilience. Classics from Loretta Lynn (“Rated X,” a frank look at divorce) and Dolly Parton (her break-out-the-Kleenex ballad “Down from Dover”) fit comfortably next to new material from soul legend Mavis Staples, who serves up two smoldering songs about the African-American experience in present-day America with “If All I Was Was Black” and “Little Bit.” From her exceptional new album All American Made, burgeoning star Margo Price laments the galling economic disparity for working women with the instantly hummable “Pay Gap.” Memphis native Julien Baker looks inward, bravely unspooling the emotional trauma that comes with being gay while growing up in a conservative Christian household with her hymn-like “Appointments,” the title track from her second effort Turn Out the Lights (my clubhouse leader for album of the year). The fellas are here too: Topical cuts from the Drive By Truckers and Jason Isbell follow the path laid down by outlaws Willie and Merle.
But hard times end; change comes. In that spirit, there’s breezier fare from up-and-comers like Becca Mancari, Dori Freeman, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers and the opening one-two punch of greasy-funk from Nigerian singer Kalu James and his band the Electric Joint, plus the wah-wah swirl of “All The Trouble” from the one and only Lee Ann Womack. Dig in and let us know what you think.