After a pause the last two years, Charleston, South Carolina’s High Water Festival returns for its fourth celebration this weekend, armed with a twenty-one-band lineup. Curated by the hometown duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, of Shovels & Rope, High Water brings music lovers to North Charleston’s Riverfront Park along the Cooper River for a packed two days of performances. Along with headliners Jack White and My Morning Jacket, the stellar lineup includes Old Crow Medicine Show, Mavis Staples, Drew Holcomb, Amythyst Kiah, Black Pumas, and more. Whether you’re attending the festival in person or just want to listen to what the hype is all about, we’ve put together a playlist of favorite songs from ten of this year’s performers. Dive into the tunes below.
“Down Home Girl”
Old Crow Medicine Show
It’s hard not to love a song that opens with the line: “Well I swear your perfume, baby, is made out of turnip greens.” Add in a trilling harmonica and Old Crow’s old-school country sensibility, and everything sings in this classic tune from the Tennessee favorites.
“Know You Better”
If you aren’t already familiar with the psych-soul of Austin’s Black Pumas, led by singer-songwriter Eric Burton and guitarist Adrian Quesada, “Know You Better” might just get you hooked. The song showcases Burton’s fantastic range—from his raspy whisper to a rising cry—in front of smooth-as-silk backing vocals from Angela Miller and Lauren Cervantes, and Quesada’s soft electric guitar.
Shovels & Rope
This song from the Charleston-based husband-and-wife duo is a crowd favorite—and for good reason. “Birmingham” won the Americana Music Association’s 2013 award for best song of the year, and it vibrates with piercing percussion and glorious intertwined vocals from Trent and Hearst.
My Morning Jacket
“Can’t try much harder to get back to water / Gonna get back hotter, get back, get back to water,” frontman Jim James delicately sings on top of a slow hum of guitar and keyboard. “Run It,” from 2020’s Waterfall II, is the type of smooth groove that’ll get stuck in your head: It’s an irresistible, easygoing mood-lifter that offers a peaceful pace and catchy chorus.
“Keep the Blues Away”
This is the kind of track that begs to be played while driving along a winding country road. After a deceptively cheerful-sounding account of falling on hard times, the song slowly builds to a gorgeous swell, with lead singer Taylor Meier’s resigned wail (“I’ll get high if I want to / I get low every day”) joining an explosion of banjo and guitar. The isolation of Meier’s vocals at the end is the perfect icing on the cake.
“It took me two years to write because I was finally giving my younger self permission to feel what I was feeling, as opposed to trying to bury it and ignore it,” Amythyst Kiah told G&G about “Wild Turkey.” The song grapples with her mother’s suicide when Kiah was a teenager, translating the indescribable loss into an aching narrative of reckoning with grief: “When your soul dies, you just can’t hide it / Everyone can tell / Oh, Lord, will I ever feel right again?”
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
The Nashville-based Holcomb has plenty of romantic folk songs up his sleeve, but “American Beauty” captures the excitement of being in love…and the heartbreak of saying goodbye. Sweet, slow, and tinged with a bit of melancholy, it’s a wistful track on wishing for more time to spend with the ones we love.
“Year of the Spider”
Shannon & the Clams
The punchy title track from Shannon & the Clams’ 2021 album—produced in Nashville by Black Keys’ frontman Dan Auerbach—blends garage punk–infused pop with layered, scratchy vocals, resulting in a sound that seems like it’s from an entirely different era. Though it’s impossible to pin down the vibe of this California-based band to one decade, the song’s quirky lyrics and lively snare drum would feel right at home in the score of a retro coming-of-age movie.
“Love Is the Key”
“Love Is the Key” is a slow-burning groove off Cedric Burnside’s ninth album, I Be Trying, which earned him a Grammy this year for Best Traditional Blues Album. Born in Memphis and raised in Mississippi, Burnside grew up with the musical influence of his father, drummer Calvin Jackson, and the Hill Country Blues icon R. L. Burnside, his grandfather. A singer, drummer, and guitarist, Cedric carries on the Hill Country tradition with his own distinctive and divine electric blues.
“Love Me Tenderly”
The Felice Brothers
This timeless, playful love song comes from a brother duo who got their musical start in the New York City subways. “Ooh we, that gal’s the gal for me / She loves me tenderly,” Ian Felice croons over a cheerful piano, backed by soaring hollers from James Felice. Although the brothers hail from New York, their pared-down acoustics and rich narratives follow in the tradition of storytellers such as John Prine and Townes Van Zandt.