As the weather cools and the leaves put on a show, Southern musicians are bringing their own dose of color and vibrancy. The season has brought outstanding tunes from up-and-coming voices, new music from the great Dr. John, and a triple release from Tyler Childers, and there’s more to come. Here are ten albums—plus a few must-hear singles—that deserve a spot on your fall playlist.
Marcus King | Young Blood
Marcus King has been hailed as the future of Southern rock since he was a teenager. But even as the Greenville, South Carolina, native has reached new highs musically, he knows the lows, too. His struggles through a dark period of substance abuse and depression heavily shaped Young Blood, his follow-up to 2020’s Grammy-nominated El Dorado, and it finds the twenty-six-year-old in fine form. Whether he’s opening up about heartbreak on “Lie, Lie, Lie” or soaring on “Hard Working Man,” Young Blood is a beacon for those searching for hope in the darkness, and further proof that King is one of the South’s reigning guitar gods.
Charley Crockett | The Man from Waco
With a dozen albums now to his name, Charley Crockett is shaping up to be one of country music’s most prolific torchbearers. The Texas native once again lends his deep baritone to traditional country and blues sounds on his latest, The Man from Waco. “I’m Just a Clown” shows off both Crockett’s sly humor and the instrumental chops of his band, the Blue Drifters, who joined him in the studio for the first time for an entire album. But don’t sleep on “Just Like Honey,” a heartbreaker with an irresistible beat, or the catchy closer “Name on a Billboard,” a reflection on the perils of fame.
Dr. John | Things Happen That Way
When the legendary New Orleans musician Dr. John passed away from a heart attack in 2019, he was finishing up an album that would capture his longtime appreciation for country-and-western music. Three years later, the fruits of those recording sessions have finally come to light in Things Happen That Way, a blend of covers from country greats (“Funny How Time Slips Away,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) and originals such as the stellar “Holy Water,” a flashback to his stint in prison during the sixties.
Tyler Childers | Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?
Not every track on Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? will hit all the right notes for every Tyler Childers fan. But with three discs each offering alternate versions of eight total album tracks, there’s probably something here for just about everyone. Childers’s takes on Hank Williams’s “Old Country Church” are must-listens in every iteration, and three reimagined recordings of “Purgatory,” a song that first appeared on the Kentucky native’s 2017 album by the same name, will likely thrill longtime listeners. The title track draws a hard line on what he’s willing to give up for eternal salvation—and “runnin’ hounds and treein’ coons” ain’t on that list.
Courtney Marie Andrews | Loose Future
Her fifth release via Mississippi’s Fat Possum Records, Loose Future features the same clear, emotive vocals that have won Courtney Marie Andrews acclaim across the roots music community (and there’s plenty of pedal steel, too). But the album also includes bouncier, breezier instrumentals and a more uplifting lyrical outlook. Andrews particularly shines on “These Are the Good Old Days,” an ambling folk-pop gem that takes stock of life’s lovelier moments.
Plains | I Walked with You a Ways
Katie Crutchfield, best known under the moniker Waxahatchee, and Jess Williamson first gained acclaim individually as indie rock artists. But Crutchfield, at least, had been hinting at a country turn, and the duo cites the Chicks and Dolly Parton as key influences for their debut together as Plains. Those predecessors’ impact is perhaps clearest on “Abilene,” a harmony-washed number that would fit right in with efforts like Trio, Parton’s 1987 album with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. But for all their nods to country music’s past, Plains’s sound doesn’t easily slide into any single genre—and wise music lovers won’t miss their chance to catch the duo on tour this fall.
Miko Marks | Feel Like Going Home
Miko Marks made waves at this year’s CMA Fest, earning a standing ovation for her performance at CMT’s Next Women of Country event. But she first made her mark on Nashville nearly two decades ago with her debut album, Freeway Bound. The obstacles she faced as a Black female country singer led her to leave Music City soon after and nearly leave country music behind altogether. Thankfully, she reconsidered. On Feel Like Going Home, Marks shows off the head-turning vocals that should have made her a star long ago, this time with backup from her band the Resurrectors. The standout single “One More Night” brings elements of blues, Southern rock, country, and gospel, but the glue that makes it work is Marks herself—an electrifying presence with hopefully much more music to come.
Lee Fields | Sentimental Fool
North Carolina soul man Lee Fields began his career more than a half-century ago, and on Sentimental Fool, he demonstrates exactly why his classic sound has held strong through the decades. Rife with horns, rich background vocals, and smooth beats, the Daptone Records album boasts twelve original tracks, including “Ordinary Lives,” a wistful stunner about wanting a tender moment to last just a little longer.
Emily Nenni | On the Ranch
Emily Nenni caught listeners’ ears in 2020 with the streaming success of “Long Game,” a chin-up anthem for anyone still waiting for hard work to pay off. Her forthcoming Normaltown Records debut, On the Ranch, should earn the California-raised, Nashville-based country singer a wider following. On the opener “Can Chaser,” Nenni lends her twang to an ode to the women of the rodeo—a fitting theme when you consider that she wrote the bulk of the album while living on a Colorado ranch.
Larkin Poe | Blood Harmony
Megan and Rebecca Lovell, the Georgia-born sisters at the core of Larkin Poe, have been performing for the better part of their lives, first as members of the bluegrass group the Lovell Sisters before striking out on their own with a blues-rock edge. Whether they’re covering the Allman Brothers or paying tribute in an original track, their devotion to their craft is evident in every performance, and their latest effort, Blood Harmony, continues their nod to the greats before them. The bold, guitar-driven “Bad Spell” draws inspiration from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell On You,” while “Georgia Off My Mind” plays off a classic for a new number all their own.
The son of the late, great songwriter John Prine, Tommy Prine made his debut this September with the gorgeous “Ships in the Harbor,” a poetic reflection on grief and change.
Joy Oladokun knocked the socks off critics with 2021’s In Defense of My Own Happiness. This fall, she teamed up with Chris Stapleton for “Sweet Symphony,” a smooth ode to the peacefulness of a healthy relationship.
And Saskatchewan-born crooner Colter Wall’s deep vocals resonate on “Let’s All Help the Cowboys (Sing the Blues),” a Cowboy Jack–written, Waylon Jennings–popularized cover, as well as the old-school original “Cypress Hills and the Big Country.”