Another exciting week in Americana music with new albums from Blackberry Smoke, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and new singles from Joan Osborne, Molly Tuttle, The Avett Brothers, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Blackberry Smoke recently released Live From Capricorn Sound Studios, a blazing ode to the history and heritage of southern rock. Recorded live in the landmark Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon Georgia, where blistering sessions by the Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band were recorded. For the album Blackberry Smoke cover a litany of influential classics, but the pulsating “Midnight Rider” stands out. Gregg Allman famously broke into Capricorn Studios to record a demo of the song. Harnessing the power of the sun the album was entirely recorded with solar powered energy. Proceeds from the album will go to Musicares Covid-19 Relief Fund.
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings made the best of quarantine and recorded All The Good Times Are Past and Gone. An intimate home recording of Welch and Rawlings favorite songs including songs by Bob Dylan, John Prine, and Elizabeth Cotten. When announcing the release of the album Rawlings said, “For reasons better discussed in the history books, in the Spring of 2020 Gillian and I dusted off an old tape machine and did some home recording. Sometimes we bumped the microphone, sometimes the tape ran out, but in the end we captured performances of some songs we love.”
He isn’t kidding about the bumps and tape running out. Clicking, taps and an abrupt end to Bob Dylan’s “Abandoned Love” gives the album an intimacy, energy, and charm. The album feels like an unearthed gem traded in concert parking lots. There is an urgency underpinning the album found on “Y’all Come” by Arlie Duff and the Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash song “Jackson.”
After six years of waiting for new original material by Joan Osborne the wait is finally over with the release of her album Trouble and Strife, available September 18. She makes her bold and spirited return with the single "Take It Any Way I Can Get It.” Osborne’s voice soars with bold defiance over the negative emotions surrounding us and drops lifelines of hope. Lyrically pulling us out of the mess with, “I been drivin’/Unprotected strivin’/Oxygen deprivin’/But I keep survivin’/I got to be dancin’/Give me one more chancin’/Try to take a stancin’/Get a little romancin’.” Osborne reminds us life still needs to be lived. A life filled with love, passion, hope, and creativity, no matter how confined, isolated, and afraid you are.
As many in the Nashville area did Molly Tuttle experienced the one, two punch of tornado and Covid-19. Battling the overwhelming feelings brought to all of us, Tuttle found comfort in music. Her favorite music was able to remind her why she fell in love with music.
Reinvigorated with fresh zeal Tuttle created …but I’d Rather Be With You, available August 28. Partnering with producer Tony Berg to record 2,000 miles apart. Tuttle taught herself how to use ProTools, recorded and engineered all of her parts alone before sending them to Berg in Los Angeles. Berg proceeded to enlist legendary session musicians including drummer, Matt Chamberlain and keys player, Patrick Warren to add instrumentation in their respective home studios. Guest vocalists include Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor.. “This is how the astronauts do it!” she recalls Berg saying as they sent the files back and forth.
…but I’d Rather Be With You, is a journey where Tuttle takes us through her musical landmarks. She takes us to pop punk pioneers Rancid, then to downtempo dance artist FKA Twigs, indie rock darlings The National, the renowned Grateful Dead, and many more. When asked about the wide range of artist Tuttle said, “I love so many types of music, and it’s exciting to be a part of different musical worlds,” she says, “but when I’m creating, I don’t think about genres or how it will fit into any particular format – it’s just music.”
The Avett Brothers, known for their raucous live shows and lush albums spanning two decades, return to their trio roots with The Third Gleam, available August 28. Lead single “Victory” harkens back to the earliest years of the band, stripped bare of theatrics and loaded with emotion.
Even though the album was recorded prior to Covid-19 and social unrest the band believes the album will connect to the current state of the world. “We touch on historical prejudice, faith, economic disparity, gun violence, incarceration, redemption, and as is increasingly standard with our records, stark mortality,” says Seth Avett. “This is by no means a record defined by any specific social or cultural goal, nor is it informed by a singular challenge posed to humanity. It is merely the sound of my brother and I in a room, singing about what is on our minds and in our hearts at the time…sharing it now is about what sharing art is always about: another chance that we may partake in connecting with our brothers and sisters of this world, and hopefully joining you in noticing a speck of light gleaming in what appears to be a relatively long and dark night.”
Multi Grammy-winner Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 15th studio album, The Dirt And The Stars, available August 7. On the album Carpenter ponders life’s intimate, personal moments and explores its most universally challenging questions at an unprecedented time. Written at her rural Virginia farmhouse before stay-at-home orders became the “new normal.”
Cory Martin is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn., writing about movies, music and pop culture.