Music

New Music for May

Fresh albums from an unforgettable New Orleans ten-piece, a rising Nashville singer-songwriter, the inimitable Mavis Staples, and more
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Southern Avenue | Keep On

In the two years since Southern Avenue released its self-titled Stax debut, the Memphis band has brought its retro soul sound to festival stages around the world, earning new fans and critical accolades along the way. Keep On, a twelve-song stunner recorded at Sam Phillips Recording studio, delivers on the band’s burgeoning reputation with tracks like the inherently danceable “Jive” and the bluesy album closer, “We’re Gonna Make It.”

Essential Tracks: “Jive,” “Keep On”

Justin Townes Earle | The Saint of Lost Causes

On his first release since 2017’s highly personal Kids in the Street, Justin Townes Earle turns his focus outward with an album that speaks to the struggles of everyday Americans from a variety of perspectives. “Don’t Drink the Water” tackles the environmental and health costs of greed in coal country, while in “Over Alameda,” a mother dreams of providing a better life for her children.

Essential Tracks: “Over Alameda,” “Ain’t Got No Money”

Lucette | Deluxe Hotel Room

When she arrived on the Americana scene at nineteen, Lucette served up serious Bobbie Gentry vibes with the murderous single “Bobby Reid.” Five years later on Deluxe Hotel Room, her Sturgill Simpson–produced sophomore release, she displays the same knack for storytelling while expanding her musical range, from sinister, pulsing beats (“Full Moon Town”) to bare-bones piano ballads (“Lover Don’t Give Up On Me”).

Essential Tracks: “Deluxe Hotel Room,” “Lover Don’t Give Up On Me”

Tank & the Bangas | Green Balloon

Tarriona “Tank” Ball cut her teeth as a competition-winning slam poet, a fact evident on Green Balloon, Tank & the Bangas’ major-label debut, in trippy spoken-word interludes and hip-hop inflected songs such as “Smoke.Netflix.Chill.” But the frontwoman for the New Orleans ten-piece is an equally adept singer, as she ably demonstrates on the piano ballad “Mr. Lion.” Green Balloon’s standout number, though, might be “Spaceships”—a bouncy, sing-song gem perfect for a summer playlist.

Essential Tracks: “Spaceships,” “Smoke.Netflix.Chill”

Caroline Spence | Mint Condition

Nashville’s Caroline Spence has quietly been building a name for herself as a stellar songwriter, and it’s easy to see why on her latest full-length, Mint Condition. Simple strumming behind the title track allows the lyrics to shine as they praise a long-term love that forever feels brand new. “Nothing ’bout you ever gets old,” she sings, and right now, it feels like nothing about this record will either.

Essential Tracks: “Mint Condition,” “Who’s Gonna Make My Mistakes”

Joy Williams | Front Porch

Front Porch is a return to the stripped-down sound that won Joy Williams acclaim as one-half of the harmonizing duo the Civil Wars. The measured crescendos of “The Trouble with Wanting” convey a deep sense of longing, while “Look How Far We’ve Come” pairs tender vocals with a lone guitar. For Williams, whose previous two efforts leaned into pop, Front Porch feels like a homecoming.

Essential Tracks: “The Trouble with Wanting,” “Look How Far We’ve Come

Mavis Staples | We Get By

Mavis Staples has accomplished multitudes in her decades-long career, both as a musician and a prominent voice of the Civil Rights Movement, and her latest work is as strong as ever. The title track exudes Staples’s well-known love and positivity (“We get by with help from our kin / We get by through thick and through thin”), while the lead single, “Change,” is a powerful reminder that there’s a lot of work left to be done. Produced by Ben Harper, who appears on the title track,We Get By proves the living legend, celebrating her eightieth birthday this summer, is still one of our most vital voices.

Essential Tracks: “Change,” “We Get By”

Get a taste of these May releases—along with last month’s favorite albums and the latest songs from Tyler Childers, John Prine, Rhiannon Giddens, and more—by following our New Music playlist on Spotify.

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