featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
October 1, 2023
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
Blink-and-it's-gone September becomes October. Next thing you know, we're beset with end-of-year lists. Which seems odd, since I'm counting over one-hundred records remaining on our Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster release calendar. Nevertheless, we're calendaring our own monthlong Good Riddance to 2023 celebration, which seems to get longer every year. Here's the plan:
Year in Americana - Dec 3
Favorite Songs - Dec 10
Christmas Christmas - Dec 17
Favorite Albums - Dec 24
Covers - Dec 31
We ask that you respond appropriately. For now, let's add another ten strong songs that gave dimension and meaning to our last thirty days. We call it:
WHAT's SO GREAT ABOUT SEPTEMBER?!!
1. Lydia Loveless, "Sex and Money" Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again (Bloodshot, Sep 22) The digital ink has hardly dried on our appreciation of Loveless' new record, wherein we praised this power pop banger as one of our favorites of the year. With a hot pink Barbie movie hook and a self deprecating humor that carries throughout the collection, it's Lydia Loveless to a new degree.
2. Maren Morris, "Get the Hell Out of Here" The Bridge EP (Columbia, Sep 15) Morris released her two-song Bridge EP as a kiss-off to the exclusionary country mainstream, as well as a reckoning of her own role in the dysfunctional relationship. The lovely acoustic track speaks from this place of humility, a full but simple arrangement credited at least in part to Jack Antonoff, it's a sigh of a song: I do the best I can / But the more I hang around here, the less I give a damn / So to all the doubts and demons that I held so dear / Go on, get the hell outta here.
^ 3. Abby Hamilton, "#1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo)" #1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo) (Blue Gown, Oct 13) We've bookmarked this debut full-length since catching wind of her earliest singles. As clever as Elizabeth Cook, with the soul and bombast of Margo Price, the Kentucky artist is in a decidedly modern setting for her first single, from the thrumming bass to the Olivia Rodrigo-esque recitative: I bet she's really pretty and really smart / She probably reads the New York Times or went to Harvard / Or won some kind of Nobel Peace Prize. This could be fun.
4. Low Cut Connie, "Take Me To the Place" Art Dealers (Contender, Sep 8) A longing ode to a lost place and time, inspired by the New York of Lou Reed and Patty Smith, Adam Weiner's new record is brilliantly evocative. One of the most daringly captivating performers in our kind of music. he and his band draw from a deep well of soul and scum, glamor and façade. With shared vocals by SUSU, "Take Me" casts a spell.
5. Morgan Wade, "Losers Look Like Me" Psychopath (Sony, Aug 25) Not everything on her second collection lands as truly as most of the songs from Reckless. That said, at her best Wade remains a fearless artist with a wisdom and melodic sensibility to rival Kasey Musgraves. Here she recognizes herself in the losers following in the footsteps of their failed parents. The midtempo country-rocker shines brighter than Ashley McBryde in a pop sense, but shares the other's first-hand knowledge of small town misgivings: I didn't know the world was so damn mean.
6. Jeffrey Martin, "There Is a Treasure" Thank God We Left the Garden (Fluff & Gravy, Nov 3) Good god, what do Jeffrey Martin and Anna Tivel talk about over dinner?! One-half of folk music's most eloquent pair, Martin has announced his first record in six years. Recorded in a backyard shed with an acoustic guitar and two mics, "Treasure" is an exquisite statement on meaning and mortality, hushed an reverent, gorgeously melodic. Per Martin, it's about the gift of feeling ourselves to be beautifully unimportant.
7. Big Thief, "Born For Loving You" single (4AD, Sep 13) You might recall that Big Thief's tangled gesture, Dragon New Warm Mountain, etc ... sat atop our year-end favorites for '22. This unexpectedly straightforward folk-rock track follows September's darker "Vampire Empire", though we've learned by now to eschew expectations for Adrienne Lenker and co. "Born" is as earnestly simple a song as the quartet has shared in recent years, even as Lenker's lyrics loop from the back of your pickup truck into the meaning-full cosmos: After the first stars formed, after the dinos fell / After the first light flickered out of this motel.
8. Maria Elena Silva, "Love, If It Is So" Dulce (Astral Spirits, Sep 29) Silva is a talented Chicago singer-guitarist whose new album careens through rock, jazz, and Latin music, delivered in Spanish as well as English. "Love" sequences bits from each of these, adding additional sparks of guitar from Mark Ribot to Silva's breathy, enigmatic vocal: Perfect angles get bent at the sight of me.
9. Margo Cilker, "I Remember Carolina" Valley of Heart's Delight (Fluff & Gravy, Sep 15) Cilker's second collection addresses concerns of home and place, where and how we belong. "Carolina" is a rollicking travelogue, a loose romp from Carolina to Montana, down through Oregon and into the changing landscapes of her native California coast. The bluegrass cut features Caleb Klauder on mandolin, Jenny Conlee-Drizos at a pub-ready piano, and some reckless fiddle from Annie Staninec.
10. Sarah Jarosz, "Jealous Moon" Polaroid Lovers (Rounder, Jan 26) Multi-instrumentalist Jarosz was not yet 20 when she was crowned a bluegrass debutante by NPR. Several bluegrass, folk, and americana crowns later (incl. four Grammys), she announces her seventh record with a pulsing, polished shot of country-pop miles from those 'grass roots. Produced and co-written by Daniel Tashian (who played a hand in Kasey Musgraves' break from country), "Jealous" charges forward on Edge-y guitar spirals and Fred Eltringham's 80's-adjacent wave of drums: Queen bee buzzing round my right arm / Wonder how she keeps her kingdom spinning.
ROUTES-cast OCTOBER 1, 2023
- Flatland Cavalry, "Mornings With You (ft Kaitlin Butts)" Wandering Star (Interscope, Oct 27) D
- Shane Smith & the Saints, "Greys Between" single (Geronimo West, 23) D
- Charlie Crockett, "Black Sedan (live)" Live From the Ryman (Son of Davy, 23)
- Goodnight Texas, "Runaways (ft Kirk Hammett)" single (2 Cent Bank Check, 23) D
- Old Heavy Hands, "Coming Down" Small Fires (OHH, Jan 19) D
- Southall, "Scared Money" Southall (Smoklahoma, 23) D
- Howdies, "Cry Mercy" Howdies All Around (Normaltown, 23)
- Lindsay Lou, "Nothing's Working (ft Billy Strings)" Queen of Time (Kill Rock Stars, 23)
- Buddy & Julie Miller, "I Been Around" In the Throes (New West, 23)
- Duff Thompson, "Up and Go" Shadow People (Mashed Potato, Oct 27)
- Owen Temple, "Beautiful Accidents" Rings On a Tree (El Paisano, 23)
- Van Plating, "Joel Called the Ravens (ft Ottoman Turks)" Orange Blossom Child (Singular, 23)
- Charles Wesley Godwin, "Soul Like Mine" Family Ties (Big Loud, 23)
- Zach Bryan, "Sarah's Place (ft Noah Kahan)" Boys of Faith EP (Belting Bronco, 23)
- Jerry Joseph, "Book Burning" Baby You're the Man Who Would Be King (Cosmo Sex School, 23)
- Jaime Wyatt, "Althea" Feel Good (New West, Nov 3)
- William Elliott Whitmore, "Adaptation and Survival" Silently the Mind Breaks (Whitmore, Jan 26) D
- John Moreland, "Dim Little Light (live)" Live at Third Man Records (Third Man, Nov 10) D
- Bones of JR Jones, "Animals" Slow Lightning (Bones, Oct 13)
- Jason Isbell, "Stockholm (live)" Southeastern (10th Anniversary Edition) (Southeastern, 23) D
- John P Strohm, "This American Lie" Something To Look Forward To (Propeller Sound, 23)
- Elliott BROOD, "Rose City" Town (Six Shooter, Nov 3) D
- Dylan LeBlanc, "Coyote" Coyote (ATO, Oct 20)
- Connie Lovatt, "Gull" Coconut Mirror (Enchante, 23)
- Wilco, "Soldier Child" Cousin (dBpm, 23)
- Sun June, "Mixed Bag" Bad Dream Jaguar (Run For Cover, Oct 20)
- Iron & Wine, "Thomas County Law (live)" Who Can See Forever Soundtrack (Sub Pop, Nov 17) D
- Little Mazarn, "Lake Texoma" Honey Island General Store EP (Double Yolk, 23) D
- Yasmin Williams, "Dawning (ft Aoife O'Donovan)" single (Nonesuch, 23) D
To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months. Or click here for a preview: