In conjunction with the September/October issue, American Songwriter presents the The Muse September sampler, a free album available for download that features ten killer tracks from some of our favorite artists. Click here to download the sampler.
Shovels & Rope, “The Devil Is All Around”
Filled with hillbilly hymns, frenetic folk tunes and roughhewn roots rockers, Swimmin’ Time finds Shovels & Rope leaping into the same waters that carried artists like Jason Isbell out of Americana’s exclusive territory and into more mainstream, genre-spanning environs. They haven’t lost their ramshackle touch, though. “The Devil Is All Around” keeps things rough and raw, setting Cary and Michael’s harmonized croons to a soundtrack of booming snare hits and furious guitar strums.
Delta Spirit, “From Now On”
Full of songs written in a windowless Brooklyn rehearsal space, Into the Wide –Delta Spirit’s fourth album – is dark and dissatisfied. Lead single “From Now On” kicks things off on a sunnier note, though, celebrating the decade-long friendships between the band’s five members. “From now on, I’m gonna be your friend,” goes the optimistic refrain, repeated over and over while guitars build up a wave of churning, shoegazing noise in the background.
Like a garage band that spends its off-days at the beach, Allah Las rustle up the trippy, sunbaked haze of 1960s surf-rock on this two-minute tribute to California. It’s the soundtrack to an endless summer, full of guitars that fuzz, fizzle and fade like the afternoon sunset. Surf’s up.
Benjamin Booker, “Violent Shiver”
No wonder Jack White cherry-picked this newcomer to be the opening act on his international tour. Booker is a punk-rocker with a bluesy heart, and “Violent Shiver” — his debut single — is everything its title promises: a song that’s so furious and fast-paced, you can’t help but convulse.
Cory Branan, “You Make Me”
With Jason Isbell singing background harmonies and a pair of modern-day guitar gods – Audley Freed and Sadler Vaden – slashing their way through boogie-woogie riffs worthy of The Faces, “You Make Me” finds Cory Branan pledging his boozy, bluesy love to his wife. It doesn’t necessarily take a village to perform a love song … but sometimes, it does sound better that way.
Got A Girl, “Did We Live Too Fast”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Dan the Automator first met on the set of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. As bandmates, though, the two swirl up a sexy, slinky sound more reminiscent of French spy movies. “Did We Live Too Fast” finds Winstead crooning about sour love over a backdrop of swooning strings and lounge-ish piano trills. Hey, Quentin Tarantino: we’ve found a song for your next movie soundtrack.
Hiss Golden Messenger, “Mahogany Dread”
A breezy folk-rocker that could’ve been lifted from Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, “Mahogany Dread” finds frontman M.C. Taylor taking a good, hard look at life as he slides into middle age. He’s a working musician with bills to pay and two children to feed. That’s no reason to hang up the guitar, though. “Happy days are still ahead,” he sings toward song’s end, before yielding the spotlight to a swirling organ solo that steers the tune throughout its final 60 seconds.
Lee Ann Womack, ‘When I Come Around”
Newly signed to Sugar Hill Records, Lee Ann Womack kicks country-pop to the gutter and embraces a raw, rootsy, realistic sound on The Way I’m Livin’, her first album in six years. “When I Come Around” is a waltzing ode to the small pockets of the Bible Belt, shot through with fiddles, pedal steel guitar, close harmonies and a passionate performance from Womack, who croons with confidence after her half-decade sabbatical.
Sons Of Bill, “Brand New Paradigm”
With Ken Coomer behind the production board and keyboardist Abe Wilson behind the mic, Sons of Bill roll their disparate influences – R.E.M., Queen, Big Star, Pink Floyd, The Beatles – into this standout track from Love And Logic. The result is pure Sons of Bill, though, proof that these guys can channel the greats without simply repeating history.
Lera Lynn, “Out To Sea”
The kick-off track from Lera Lynn’s second album begins with scattered drumbeats and some mumbled conversation, seguing into a lovely, lilting gem of atmospheric Americana. Lynn’s alto is dark and dreamy, like some open-ended expanse of country land just before sunrise, and producer Joshua Grange wraps it in layers of pedal steel, banjo, baritone guitar and gauzy harmonies.