The Best Country Music on Bandcamp: February 2022
By Ben Salmon February 28, 2022
Our new column covering the best country (and country adjacent) music on Bandcamp returns in February, featuring Pacific Northwest Americana soul, psychedelic folk-pop from an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, bluegrass classic from one of the genre’s giants and a second effort released 50 years after the artist’s debut, among other excellent releases. Enjoy!
Kieran Kane and Rayna Gellert
Flowers that bloom in spring
Kieran Kane is a folk music lifer, known for his work in the all-star trio Kane Welch Kaplin and his killer songs, which have been recorded by big names like John Prine and Emmylou Harris. Rayna Gellert is a world-class violinist who grew up playing early music before finding success in the 2000s with her string orchestra Uncle Earl. Together they are not a strange couple, but a finely tuned folk duo whose parts fit together perfectly. The songs on their third album are built from memorable melodies, crafted harmonies, tough times, heartbreak, and the bugle sound of plucked, strummed, and strummed strings.
The Del McCoury Group
With the death of giants like Ralph StanleyEarl Scruggs and Doctor Watson over the past decade, the title of greatest bluegrass living today probably belongs to legendary guitarist and vocalist Del McCoury. almost proud captures his eponymous band at their traditional best, churning out a clean, crisp mix of boom-chick strings, bouncy bass lines and McCoury’s tenor vocals. Dad and his sons – mandolinist Ronnie McCoury and banjoist Rob McCoury, who joined the band in the 80s – have been playing together for so long that they seem to have discovered a new, stronger strain of family chemistry.
Way up in the hills
Less than a year ago, Melissa Carper was dating one of the best country albums of 2021. Now she’s back with sad dada quartet of Arkansas-based singers and songwriters who used their pandemic-related spare time in 2020 to record their third album, Way up in the hills. They did it in a cabin on a lake in Arkansas, which is probably why these songs sound more like a jam session on the porch than a “real” recording session. On a dozen tracks, the quartet dabble in bluegrass, country, folk and Western swing, sometimes accompanied by the sound of frying bacon or insects flying in the background. Close your eyes hard enough and this one turns into a real-world escape hatch. Up in the hills, indeed.
Here it is, folks: just your typical follow-up – five decades later! – of what is widely considered the debut album by an openly gay country artist. If you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all, right? But seriously, Lavender Country’s 1973 debut remains a classic for its vibrant twang, sense of humor and fearless homosexuality, and their second effort, Pink Mulberry, offers more or less the same thing, but with significantly higher fidelity. So when Patrick Haggerty lays down a nugget of wisdom among the punchlines, you can’t miss it: “Everyone here is smiling, but we’re all dying inside,” he sings in “Gay Bar Blues.” Preach, Patrick! Long live the land of lavender!
We’ve got more than our fair share of pandemic albums these days, but few shine as brightly as this sophomore effort from the honey-voiced singer-songwriter. Erin Rae. From top to bottom of the track list, Rae sings about real things in a relatable way: fear and self-doubt, toxic relationships, self-discovery in solitude, personal triumph, modern femininity and beyond. . And musically, she gently fuses psychedelic folk, vintage pop and cosmic country with seamless results. Lighten is undeniably rooted in country music, but the contemporary artist he brings to mind is above all a psych-folk adventurer Blood of Weyes: a testament to Rae’s omnivorous approach.
The long way back
There’s a lot to love about Marty Bush’s classic country music, but two elements stand out as mainstays of his sound: Bush’s vocals, a deep baritone that most country singers would eat their hats off to have. And Devon Teran’s steel pedals, whose sublime, spectral tone cuts through the weight of Bush’s songs, elevating them. A quick scroll through bush Facebook page reveals a man who screen-prints his own T-shirts and regularly performs in bars across the Midwest. Here is the hope The long way back gets him the break he deserves.
The drift of the sea
The DelinesWilly Vlautin and Amy Boone from team up in country-soul heaven. Boone (formerly Austin-based alt-country cult favorites The Damnations TX) could sing the phone book and make it sound like a story you don’t want to miss. And Vlautin (formerly Portland-based American Heroes Richmond Fountain) is a best-selling author with a handful of well-reviewed books to his name. With The Delines, Vlautin writes vivid short stories about the broken-hearted and depressed, and Boone sings the hell out of those stories, wrapping his soulful alto around their characters. Lest they be ignored, the band behind these two hold their own, reeling off an unhurried take on roots and soul that is positively sumptuous.
Bellingham, Washington is in the far northwest of the United States, about as far as you can get from Appalachia without leaving the lower 48. But Andy Bunn’s roots go all the way to the southeast, and Hickory is a good reminder that high-end country-bluegrass can come from anywhere. Backed by a skilled band that includes Seattle’s instrumental wizard Eli West (who also produced the album), Bunn delivers songs based on old family stories through a perfectly fine vocal rasp. The result reminds Steve Earletries his hand at bluegrass, a big compliment.
Andrew Bryant used to play in water liars, a beloved American band from Mississippi active in the mid-10s. Now, however, he makes records at home (under his own name), filling them with tuneful, twangy rock ‘n’ roll that seems to be pouring out of him in an endless stream. This month, however, Bryant is focusing on other people’s music. His new album Sentimental covers features Bryantized versions of works by songwriters like Jason Molina, Guy Clark, Chan Marshall, John Prine and David Berman, whose “Slow Education” sounds like a late-era Johnny Cash recording. Such material might overwhelm a lesser musician, but Bryant is tough, competent and serious about his craft.