Declaration of Independents: May/June 2022 Issue Indie Spotlight

Another gathering of releases by independent artists that deserve wider recognition.

Videos by American Songwriter

Pete Mancini
Killing the Old Ways

As the former frontman for the critically acclaimed New York City band Butchers Blind, Pete Mancini was already a well-seasoned rocker by the time he launched his solo career with Foothill Freeway in 2017. Following a slew of critical kudos, he released his sophomore set Flying First Class two years later. His new effort, Killing the Old Ways, takes a more epic approach, with a loosely bound concept album about the need to make one’s way through the world while also skewing hope from happenstance. Produced by Matt Patton of the Drive-By Truckers, it finds songs such as “High Rise Serenade,” “Madison Avenue Blues,” “Patchwork,” and the title track towing a fine between rootsy, heartland rock and roll and emphatic Americana. So too, “Don’t Ask (If You Don’t Want To Know)” and “Standing in the Shadows” allow for a more subdued sound, offering an opportunity for thoughtful rumination. Killing the Old Ways truly provides a new beginning. (

Handsome and the Humbles
400 Cigarettes

Hailing from East Tennessee, Handsome and the Humbles have established themselves as one of the region’s most dynamic ensembles, a band that can share both poignant ballads and roots-rock anthems. Their latest offering, the 400 Cigarettes EP, affirms that pronouncement once again, courtesy of such songs as the all-embracing “All Those Pretty Things” and “Self Defense” and the tender trappings of “Wyoming,” “If I Could (Live for WVTF),” and “Good Morning From Nashville.” The title track falls in-between, propelled by a tough, tenacious riff and a purely reflective refrain. It’s an unlikely juxtaposition, but then again, it’s also a reflection of the band’s ability to ply emotion with absolute dexterity and determination. Singer Josh Smith—the “Handsome” one the band’s moniker refers to—is a wonderfully expressive vocalist who brings genuine honesty and humanity to each entry. Given that fact, one has to wonder how they can stay so humble. (

Albert Castiglia
I Got Love
(Gulf Coast Records)

South Florida’s Albert Castiglia is part of the new breed of blues musicians, a powerhouse singer, songwriter, and guitarist who holds reverence for his roots while possessing the confidence needed to put his indelible imprint on the proceedings. His music rocks with verve and vitality that ignites the proceedings with the energy and exuberance needed to leave a distinct and decisive imprint. With producer and labelmate Mike Zito at the helm, I Got Love provides an adroit example of Castiglia’s ability to imbue his efforts with assurance and dexterity that resonates with every track. “Don’t Pay with the Devil,” “Long Hail Daddy,” “Sanctuary,” and “Double Down” are but a few of the emphatic originals, all of which boast a sound that’s both riveting and resilient. With the blistering I Got Love, Castiglia demonstrates once again that he’s got a solid groove as well. (

Pierce Turner
Terrible Good
(StorySound Records)

Pierce Turner is a multi-tasker in the truest sense. An Irish-American auteur, he splits his time between his native Wexford in old Eire and his adopted home of New York City. All the while also engaged in a variety of projects that include writing for films and opera, collaborations with others—Patti Smith and Phillip Glass included—and pursuing a solo career that began back in the ’80s. His new album, Terrible Good, an ongoing collaboration with fellow Irishman and producer Gerry Leonard, has been a work in progress throughout the past four years. The results are gestated in a tough, tenacious brew that begins with a bang and offers no letup throughout. “Where It  Should Be,” “Australia,” “More,” “Set a Few Things Up,” “Tommy and Timmy,” and “Love of Angels” offer prime examples, each a reflection of an insurgent attitude and a rugged repast that’s part and parcel of Ireland’s old country attitude. Terrible Good leans decidedly towards the latter. (

Joey Landreth
All That You Dream

(Birthday Cake)

As half of the award-winning Canadian duo The Brothers Landreth, Joey Landreth possesses solid credentials he can rest his reputation on. So give him due credit for stepping out on his own with this tribute to one of his heroes, Lowell George, the original musical mastermind behind the band Little Feat. While tribute albums are sometimes merely pale reflections of the original offerings, Landreth’s aptly-titled All That You Dream shares these seven songs in a way that emphasizes soul and sensitivity with distinctly different designs. He gives “Long Distance Love” a subdued shimmer while fueling “Two Trains,” “Roll Um Easy,” and the title track with both funk and finesse. Some might question the absence of George’s better-known ballad “Willin’,” but given the innumerable covers generated over the past several decades, it’s not needed. Better, then, to give new life to these other formidable Feat classics. (

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