New Music for February 2019

A Ray Charles re-issue, new jams from Tedeschi Trucks, two wry Texas songwriters, and more new releases that make the shortest month of 2019 a sweet one for music lovers
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Tedeschi Trucks Band | Signs

On Tedeschi Trucks’s fourth studio album, Susan Tedeschi’s soulful vocals lend a particular depth to slower numbers like “All the World,” an album standout that fans will recognize from setlists over the last few years. Signs shows off the instrumental excellence that makes this Florida blues band’s live shows so enthralling—tumbling piano on “Still Your Mind,” irresistibly catchy horns on harder-rocking numbers like “Hard Case” and “Shame.” Masterful guitar work throughout makes the album a must for long-time fans (and an easy-to-love first taste for new listeners, too).

Essential Tracks: “Hard Case,” “Shame”


Leah Nobel | Running in Borrowed Shoes

Nashville singer-songwriter Leah Nobel interviewed 100 people to find inspiration for Running in Borrowed Shoes, finding poetry in private moments—peaceful ones and the doubtful ones, too. “I don’t like my eyes, my thighs, or my front teeth—see, they’re separated,” laments “Good Enough,” while the singer finds her “little piece of paradise” on “Coffee Sunday NYT.” “Wanna walk the line / between lazy and loving myself” Nobel sings, and the album itself—slightly electronic, with delicate vocals and humming harmonies—seems tailor-made for just those kinds of slow Sunday mornings.

Essential Tracks: “Coffee Sunday NYT,” “Good Enough”


Ray Charles | Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music

Modern Sounds was an instant hit when it was released in 1962—despite the fact that “modern” and “country” didn’t exactly pop up in the same conversation very often. Charles’s album of re-worked country songs, many already made popular by the likes of Hank Williams and Jimmie Davis, sold more than a million copies, and spurred a follow-up Volume 2 that same year. Now, the two albums are being re-released by Concord Music, and as today’s listeners increasingly opt for genre-agnostic playlists over traditional albums or radio, Charles’s boundary-breaking Modern Sounds may be more relevant than ever.

Essential Tracks: “You Are My Sunshine,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart”

Mandolin Orange | Tides of a Teardrop

On their third album, Chapel Hill, North Carolina duo Mandolin Orange continues to lean into fuller instrumentation—without abandoning their bluegrass roots. Album opener “Golden Embers” is a study in restraint, beginning at an ambling pace with intimate harmonies before giving way to a lush, full-band sound. Fans of 2016 breakout single “Wildfire” will be drawn to new song “The Wolves,” which trades on the same glittering strings.

Essential Tracks: “Golden Embers,” “The Wolves”

Hayes Carll | What It Is

From an argument over haint blue ceilings on opener “None Ya” to a search for redemption via George Dickel on the poignant “Jesus and Elvis,” Texas native Hayes Carll mines decidedly Southern references on What It Is, his sixth album. Current affairs get their due, too. “Times Like These” laments a culture of divisiveness; while “American Dream” describes visions of hope and hardship. But even as Carll takes on society’s shortcomings, he maintains a relatable, self-deprecating knack for making light of his own—a quality that will endear What It Is to old fans alongside those discovering Carll for the first time.

Essential Tracks: “None’Ya,” “Jesus & Elvis”


Our Native Daughters | Songs of Our Native Daughters

The brainchild of MacArthur “Genius” Rhiannon Giddens, Songs of Our Native Daughters enlists three songwriters and banjo players—Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah, and Leyla McCalla—for a project that speaks truth to false narratives about racism and slavery. On “Quasheba, Quasheba,” Russell traces the history of an ancestor who was sold from Ghana to work sugar plantations in Grenada. “Black Myself,” written by Kiah, tackles racism in many forms, including interracial (“I don’t pass the test of the paper bag / ‘Cause I’m Black Myself”), and closes with a forward-looking message: “I’ve washed away my blood and tears / I’ve been born brand new. / There’s no more workhorses / but there’s still some work to do.”

Essential Tracks: “Black Myself,” “Quasheba, Quasheba”

Adia Victoria | Silences

In Silences, Spartanburg, South Carolina native Adia Victoria has crafted a Southern-gothic gem—dark, deliberate, and wholly engrossing. The Nashville poet and singer-songwriter’s sophomore effort opens ominously, with low, slow strings on “Clean” setting up a murderous plotline, complete with full moons and rising waters. It’s a tone Victoria maintains throughout Silences. The catchy beat on “Different Kind of Love” belies a vulnerability as Victoria recalls failed romances and longs for something better, while “Dope Queen Blues” follows a desperate narrator on the crooked path to ruin.

Essential Tracks: “Dope Queen Blues,” “Different Kind of Love”

Robert Ellis | Texas Piano Man

Robert Ellis dials up the theatrics for this fifth release, Texas Piano Man. The Houston songwriter’s brash new affinity for the keys broaches weightier fare, like relationship woes in “Aren’t We Supposed to Be In Love?” (“I used to make you smile / just haven’t done it in a while / I don’t know why, aren’t we supposed to be in love?”) alongside lighter pleasures, like the fizzy pop of “Topo Chico,” with the same spirited style. “Texans fancy themselves as wildly independent, brazen, loud. They’re these larger-than-life characters,” Ellis told G&G earlier this month. “If you think about it, the classic piano men are all of those things, too.”

Essential Tracks: “Topo Chico,” “Aren’t We Supposed to Be in Love”

Get a taste of these February releases—along with last month’s favorite albums and the latest singles from the Avett Brothers, Caroline Spence, and more—by following our New Music playlist on Spotify.