New Music Friday: Light by Michael Kiwanuka

“Light” the song is actually a song off of Michael Kiwanuka’s album Kiwanuksa, which camr out last fall. Last week he released a new animated video for it highlighting the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ll just let him share what he had to say about the song.

“The way so much of the world has been designed has often caused me and so many other Black people psychological damage,” Kiwanuka says. “We so often hear that we are lesser than because we are Black. We are a label, a token, a statistic, and we can be dehumanized. I’ve spoken about it in my music but I wanted to declare in words that I’m so proud to be Black. We are so beautiful and have such a wonderful history of strength, overcoming, talent, innovation, creativity, invention and love.”

Also go check out this NPR list of A Century of Black Music Against State Violence.

New Music Friday: Seeds by Rissi Palmer

Rissi Palmer is a Black female country artist. In 2007 she was the first Black woman to make it onto the country charts since 1987 with her song “Country Girl”. Here newest album Revival that came out last October extends beyond her country roots combining them with gospel, R&B, and jazz in a collection of songs mostly about race and racism, though the very personal song “You Were Here” talks about her miscarriage.

The whole album is great, but I’m going to share the song “Seeds” here. It’s a fantastic protest song and one of the songs that most has a country feel to it.

New Music Friday: Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton

At the beginning of this year I said I wanted to highlight country songs by female artists in my New Music Friday posts because the Nashville country machine does not support women even though there are many fantastic female country singers out there. With the advent of COVID-19 I drifted away from that a little bit to talk about some songs I was feeling in that moment, and then I just stopped writing these posts all together because I just didn’t have the mental energy to do it.

Well, I’m back at least for now and am getting back to my original mission while also trying to promote some black, female country artists which are rare in a music genre that like many others pretty much appropriated the roots of the music from black people and then locked them out of it. Take a look at all the work Rhiannon Giddens has done examining the history of country music and its roots in black music.

Because mainstream country music has the issues it does regarding both women and people of color, I had not heard of Mickey Guyton before last week. She had already written the song “Black Like Me” for a forthcoming project, but in the midst of everything that has been happening recently with the black lives matter movement she quietly dropped it on black out Tuesday.

It’s a very simple song about being proud to be black, but also point out that it makes her life difficult in ways that white people don’t experience. It’s a great song and perfect for this moment. Go take a listen.

New Music Friday: We’ll Make It Through by Ray LaMontagne

A few weeks ago Ray LaMontagne released a new song called “We’ll Make It Through”. He just posted it online with no other information so it’s unclear if it’s something he wrote specifically for this moment or something he wrote previously that seems to fit it perfectly and thus he decided to put out into the world.

It’s a beautiful little ballad with a message of hope. The plaintive harmonica evokes a nostalgic feel as does the accompanying video to remind us that we as a people have made it through tough times before and even though this time seems particularly challenging and is for sure the most challenging thing most people alive have experienced in their lifetimes, life will go on in some form and we will in fact make it through in some way. I like that it feels hopeful and sad at the same time because even though we as a species will make it through not every individual person will and our lives are all going to be forever changed no matter what. It’s not a rah rah we’re all in this together kind of song that often gets churned out during trying times that I often find cloying. It’s the kind of song that makes me feel like yeah this is hard, but in some way we will be all right on the other side of the darkness eventually.

New Music Friday: Dreamsicle by Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell’s newest album, Reunions, was released today. By now you should know what a huge fan of Jason Isbell I am. I’ve been looking forward to this album ever since he played “Overseas” from it during a couple of concerts I saw him at last summer. Given that was the song he was playing out on the road I was shocked that it was never one of the singles from album released before the album was out. I kept waiting for it because I loved it so much, and I had to wait all the way until today. I still adore that song and I think the opening line “Used to be a ghost town but even the ghosts got out” is such a brilliant lyric. Jason Isbell is hands down one of, if not the best lyricist currently working today.

As much as I love “Overseas”, after he released “Dreamsicle” as the final single before the album release I was pretty sure that was the song I was going to write about here today. I waited to listen to the whole album this morning to make sure there wasn’t anything that stood out to me more. The whole album is great, and I can’t wait to really dig into it and listen more closely to the lyrics instead of having it on while I’m working, but “Dreamsicle” is still the song I want highlight even though you should do yourself a favor and go listen to the whole album.

Again this is just such a brilliantly written song. Jason Isbell can evoke a mood and a scene in a song like no one else I can think of. This song is a perfect encapsulation of that. The chorus and the melody evoke this sweet nostalgia of summer nights sitting outside and eating Dreamsicles as a kid, but if you dig into the lyrics of the verses it paints an entirely different picture of a broken family. I just love it so much. It’s perfect. Who knows how much more new music we’ll even get in the latter half of this year, but even if its an avalanche I suspect this is going to be my favorite song of 2020 and everything else is going to have to work really hard to unseat it from that place in my heart.

New Music Friday: Country Lady Roundup

I really have no motivation to write these new music Friday posts at the moment. I’ve been mostly trying to keep my life on a similar schedule as before we all had to start isolating ourselves, but my mental energy to do anything that I don’t have to do is just not really there, especially since I know only a handful of people read my music posts. I haven’t even been listening to any new music lately. I still have a big backlog of female country artists to write about in these posts though, so it’s not like I don’t have plenty write about for awhile even if I don’t start listening to new music soon. I feel bad like I’m giving the ladies of country short shrift like everyone else does, but at the moment I kind of want to be able to write about whatever I want to write about in these posts and not stick to the vow I made to give the women of country the spotlight they deserve until I ran out of songs to highlight. I will hopefully feel inspired enough to get back to that one day. For now I’m going to do an entire round up of songs that I had in my docket. At this point a lot of them are starting to be not so new anyway. Then hopefully next week I’ll start fresh with whatever is inspiring me then.

Ten Year Town by Hailey Whitters

Red Flag by Chelsea Williams

Holdin’ On by Alexis Wilkins

“Live” Music Getting Me Through Isolation

I missed out on my normal New Music Friday post yesterday. I’ve been really busy with work this week, and it’s also just been an emotional and draining week so I honestly just didn’t feel like writing it. I still have plenty of new music to write about. I just didn’t feel like it. Since I didn’t write about anything yesterday I thought I would share some of the musical things that are bringing me a little bit of joy right now.

Obviously if you know me or have been reading this blog for any amount of time you know how much I love music and how much I love to go to concerts. Obviously that’s not possible right now. It’s been sad to continue to delete more and more shows off of my calendar. I’m also trying to come to terms with the fact that even after this initial self-isolation period is over and concerts resume I’m probably going to have to refrain for the next year or so until there’s a vaccine or we’ve reached a high enough transmission rate for there to be a decent amount of herd immunity due to my multiple underlying conditions and immunocompromised status. It breaks my heart because live music is one of the things that brings me the most joy in life. Even if the show goes on I’ve already committed to abandoning my trip to Washington State the first week of June to see Brandi Carlile in a fan club only show in Seattle followed by seeing her at The Gorge, one of the venues on my bucket list. I haven’t completely come to terms with it yet, but I’m starting to think through the fact that the Newport Folk Festival is also probably going to be out for me this year as well.

Meanwhile I’m consoling myself with some of the many musical things that artists are doing from their houses. There are way too many of them to even think about keeping up with, especially the ones that are being done only on Instragram and have to be viewed within 24 hours. I’ve watched a few of those things, but obviously I can’t share those with you now so I’m going to concentrate on the ones you can still watch. Also, I was feeling overwhelmed with feeling like I was missing out on something I would love so committing to some of these and just watching other stuff when and if I can has made me feel less bad about missing out on things.

I So Lounging with Amanda Shires (and Jason Isbell)

It is no secret around here how much I love Jason Isbell and his wife Amanda Shires who has her own band, plays in his band when she can, and is the founding member of The Highwomen. Every day at 5 pm Central Amanda performs for about a half an hour from a barn on their property outside Nashville. Sometimes it’s just her. Sometimes members of her band who are quarantining with them show up. Sometimes her mom shows up. And in most of the later episodes Jason Isbell shows up. The format they’ve seemed to settle into is one or two of Amanda’s songs, one of Jason’s songs, or sometimes some covers. Kelly Bueno, so is married to one of Amanda’s bandmates and who works for but does not play in the band, is producing the daily shows and keeps an eye on the chat and passes them questions that people are asking that they then answer. They obviously have a plan for the songs they’re going to play, but otherwise things are pretty loose and can get a little silly. It’s very much a bright spot in my day. You can catch them live on Youtube each or go back and watch the previously recorded episodes.

The Kat & Dave Show

The Kat & Dave show is Katharine McPhee Foster and David Foster doing performances and being silly together. It started out a little loose and they have since gotten much more planned with themed episodes. They even say that they’re rehearsing for these for a couple hours, so they’re obviously putting a decent amount of work into them even though they still seem a little off the cuff, which I find fun and really enjoy. They’ve done 10 episodes so far and are now on a little hiatus to supposedly plan more shows. Hopefully they do return and soon because I really love them. You can go back and watch the already recorded episodes on YouTube. They go live from both of their accounts so that both of their fans can follow along, so there are two versions of every episode listed. You can just pick whose phone you want to watch it from.

Choir! Choir! Choir! Distan-Sing-Alongs

If you are unfamiliar with Choir! Choir! Choir! is a weekly drop-in sing-a-long in Toronto hosted by Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman. They also tour now so you can potentially sing with them wherever you live. I saw them perform at the Newport Folk Festival a few years ago. What they’re doing online is different from the live shows where you only sing a couple of songs and they walk through teaching the songs to everyone with half the room doing the melody and half singing harmony. In these obviously you aren’t singing with a whole room of people. You can only hear them and yourself and whoever else might be in the room singing with you. They are still a lot of fun and just seeing the people participating in the chat from all over the world while you know we’re all singing together makes me feel way less alone through all of this. We’re literally all going through it together. They’ve done two so far the Choir!intine: Epic Social Distan-Sing-Along! and the Epic Love Song Social Distan-Sing-Along. They’re doing a third one tomorrow at 3 pm Eastern where we’ll be singing songs about spring. You can watch either on Facebook Live or Youtube Live. I highly recommend. It will definitely brighten up your day I promise.

Christopher Paul Stelling

Christopher Paul Stelling has played a couple of times in the past week just sitting down with his guitar and playing for a good long time. The first one was an hour and half and the second was two hours. He’s just an amazing guitar player and I find his music so calming. His song “Scarecrow” with its chorus of “So breathe, breathe it out, lay your burdens down, to rest. Breath, through the doubts, never let them get the best, the best of you.” has long been one of my go to songs when I’m having a bad day and is moreso now than ever. I was really happy that he played it during the second show and was highly amused that it has obviously been awhile since he had to stop, figure out what the lyrics were, and then start again. If you just want some music that give you a little peace in these troubled times I recommend some Christopher Paul Stelling.

 

New Music Friday: Slow Train Creek by Holly Arrowsmith

So this week’s New Music Friday cannot really be called new by any stretch of the imagination if we’re talking chronological time as it’s almost 2 years old at this point, but it was new to me this week and I’m guessing it’s new to all of you. I’ve been making my way through this year’s Austin 100 from NPR Music and discovered Holly Arrowsmith’s song “Slow Train Creek” yesterday. It really just spoke to me in this crazy time we’re living through right now with everything topsy turvy and isolation orders to try and stem the tide of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The music itself seems really calming and that’s something I think we can all use right now. With lyrics like “All is not well in this world we’re living in. Oh let me forget my sorrow if only for a day like I’ve got nowhere to be.” they also resonate as well. Ultimately the song is about being out in nature in a quiet place and embracing the silence and calm. Despite being forced into isolation I feel like I’ve been going non-stop trying to figure out this new reality, get set up for remote work, and spend all my other time obsessing over the news and stressing out about everything. This song seems like a very good reminder to stop and take a deep breath and perhaps embrace this forced time away from the rest of the world.

New Music Friday: Who You Thought I Was by Brandy Clark

This morning I have a new song for you by Brandy Clark, not to be confused with my beloved Brandi Carlile. “Who You Thought I Was” is off her third album, Your Life is a Record, which came out last Friday. It’s been getting a lot of excellent praise, which is well deserved because it is a fantastic record. Brandy has been writing and recording in Nashville for about the past decade or so and despite much critical acclaim has never really managed to break through on country radio, which with this record she says she has come to terms with and is happy with where her career is now. I still think it’s a shame because she is wonderful songwriter and performer. The larger country music world is missing out.

New Music Friday: Gaslighter by the Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks are back and this time with new music! They did a reunion tour a couple years ago that I went to, but they didn’t record any new music to go along with it. They’re releasing a new album for the first time in 14 years on May 1 and just dropped the first single, “Gaslighter”, from it on Wednesday. Shock of all shocks my local country radio station even played it! I never thought I’d hear another Dixie Chicks song on mainstream country radio again. Add in their history with country radio to today’s antipathy towards female country artists and it’s a modern day miracle!

It’s not my favorite Dixie Chicks song ever. It may or may not grow on me. The Dixie Chicks have never been a band where I have loved every single song that they’ve put out, so I’m not that concerned that I don’t love this particular song. I’m super excited to have new music by them and am very much looking forward to hearing what’s on the rest of the album.