Music

New Music for January

Start the year off strong with Southern rock’s new standard bearers, indie pop’s next reigning voice, and a collection of duets from one of country’s top songwriters
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Balsam Range | Aeonic

What’s in a name? For members of Balsam Range, it’s a nod to their home—the quintet was born in Western North Carolina, near the Great Balsam Mountains—and a clue about their bluegrass bona fides, which draw from generations of Appalachian tradition. Up-tempo picking on songs like Beatles cover “If I Needed Someone” show off the instrumental precision that earned them the Entertainer of the Year distinction at last year’s IBMAs, but softer accompaniment serves its purpose, too, allowing their lyrical strength and subtle vocal harmonies to shine on numbers like “Angel Too Soon” and standout “The Rambler.”

Essential Tracks: “The Rambler,” “The Girl Who Invented the Wheel”

Maggie Rogers | Heard it in a Past Life

Growing up in rural Maryland, Maggie Rogers found her musical calling with the banjo before a stint abroad turned her on to the nuances of dance music. She would go on to blend the two genres, making for a sound that left the producer Pharrell Williams speechless (and, naturally, immediately went viral) in 2016. But if the hype around debut single “Alaska” elevated Rogers to the international stage, her Capitol Records debut Heard It In a Past Life is proof she belongs there—“Light On” is dance-pop bliss, while “Fallingwater” dials down the beat to moving effect.

Essential Tracks: “Light On,” “Alaska”

The Steel Woods | Old News

Fans of Southern rock will find hope for the genre’s future in the Steel Woods, whose sophomore effort Old News holds fifteen can’t-get-‘em-out-of-your-head foot-stompers. Covers—Tom Petty’s “Southern Accent,” Merle Haggard’s “The Catfish Song,” and the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post”—are done justice by frontman Wes Bayliss’s commanding vocals, but originals like album opener “All of these Years,” show a band raring to blaze a trail of their own.

Essential Tracks: “Southern Accent,” “All of these Years”

Liz Brasher | Painted Image

North Carolina-born Liz Brasher cites her interest in gospel music and Delta blues as major landmarks on her musical journey—one that led her to Atlanta and Chicago before settling down in Memphis. On Painted Image, her full-length debut, biblical motifs on songs like “Blood of Lamb” and “Living Water” nod to Brasher’s upbringing, while a robust horn section points to the influence of her adopted hometown. Brasher particularly shines on melancholy “Cold Baby,” an old-fashioned ballad that plays to the depth and richness of her vocals.

Essential Tracks: “Blood of the Lamb,” “Cold Baby”

Ronnie Milsap | Ronnie Milsap: The Duets

Ronnie Milsap has won six Grammy awards and written forty number-one country hits, but the seventy-five-year-old musician continues to outdo himself with Duets, which taps heavy hitters like Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, George Strait, among others, to revisit his biggest hits. From Kacey Musgraves’s contribution on “There’s No Getting Over Me” to the late Leon Russell’s addition to “Misery Loves Company,” any country music fan is bound to find a familiar voice or an old favorite tune here.

Essential Tracks: “There’s No Getting Over Me,” “Lost in the Fifties”

Greensky Bluegrass | All for Money

Applying jam-band spirit to traditional acoustic instruments garnered a loyal army of fans for this Kalamazoo, Michigan, quintet, but All for Money is proof they’re more than just a great live band. Ample solos show off the band’s technical excellence on album opener “Do It Alone,” and the catchy “Wish I Didn’t Know” is a perfect first taste for new fans who aren’t so sure about a band from Michigan with the word “bluegrass” in their name.

Essential Tracks: “Wish I Didn’t Know,” “Courage for the Road”

Get a taste of these January releases—plus keep up with the latest singles from G&G  favorites like the Avett Brothers, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and more—by following our New Music playlist on Spotify.

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