A roundup of the latest in Americana, alt-country, folk, and bluegrass music.
Yes, the Pew Playlist is supposed to be published each Friday. But some things are worth the wait. This week we’re featuring plenty of traditional sounds, with a few appearances from their more modern counterparts.
Without further ado, here is this week’s Pew Playlist presented in the order they were added to the list. Music is sorted for an enjoyable “mixtape” experience. But feel free to shuffle it up!
“DON’T GIVE UP (YET)” – SKI TEAM
From its tranquil opening of isolated vocals and soft glow of organ, “Don’t Give Up (Yet)” slowly builds into a raw emotional firestorm. Ski Team, a project of singer/songwriter Lucie Lozinski, skillfully raises the song’s energy with transitions to reverberating piano, which gives way to an electric and drumset beat, and finally erupts into a spanning electric guitar riff. But that’s not the real magic of the song: “Don’t Give Up (Yet)” goes straight to your heart thanks to the bare vulnerability in Lozinski’s crystalline voice.
“10:18” – REV. J MIKHAEL SMITH AND THE BRIMSTONE MIRACLE
“10:18,” the lead single off of Rev. J Mikhael Smith and the Brimstone Miracle’s latest EP release quickly draws you in with lively banjo and toe-tapping rhythm. In the song, train wreck history comes alive through Smith’s vivid lyricism. You can also check out the full Mother Church Pew Album Review for Smith’s EP Dogwood Winter.
“GATHER UP” – GRANT-LEE PHILLIPS
Gritty vocals beckon you to “Gather Up” with the fiery growl of a brimstone preacher in the latest offering from singer/songswriter Grant-Lee Phillips. Recalling his childhood feelings inspired by country church visits, you can feel the artist’s youthful imaginative past veer in wild directions as the song crescendos with a whirlwind of percussion and a strict rhythm.
“LET ME GO” – ELIOT BRONSON
Written in what artist Eliot Bronson calls a “window of psychedelic lucidity” following a breakup, “Let Me Go” is a story of both loss and resolution. The wail of distorted guitar sets the plaintive mood which punctuates Bronson’s open-soul vocals.
“SPACE AND TIME” – S.G. GOODMAN
From her aptly-titled album Old Time Feeling, S.G. Goodman’s “Space and Time” captures the influences of decades of folk, rock, blues, and soul music. The centerpiece of the song is Goodman’s powerfully rich voice as she masterfully shares her emotionally devastating struggle with suicidal thoughts following her community’s reaction to her coming out as gay.
“GONE FOR GOOD” – ARLO MCKINLEY
With clear influences from country rockers of the 60’s and 70’s, Arlo McKinley reflects on relationships gone wrong. Full of electric guitar smolder and honest lyrical reflection, “Gone For Good” would feel right at home in any blue-collar, cold beer, country juke-joint.
“CATCH THAT TRAIN” – THE HELLO DARLINS
Elements of classic folk rock combine with modern-influenced country notes in “Catch That Train” from The Hello Darlins. Vocalist Candace Lacina perfectly captures the song’s theme of a desperate need for change, charged by the optimism of finally breaking free. The notes of organ and a mournful electric guitar are balanced by the song’s upbeat drums as a perfect match to the duality of the song’s mood.
“HEARTACHE AFTER HEARTACHE” – THOMAS CSORBA
Thomas Csorba lets the poetry of his songwriting shine in his latest single, “Heartache After Heartache.” With an emotional awareness that belies Csorba’s age (23), the song dissects the artist’s struggle in dealing with love gone awry, and in the bigger picture, disappointments in life itself. The song’s peddle steel gives it the feel of classic country, while Csorba’s rambling acoustic guitar and lightly-gritty vocals will make you think of classic 50’s folk rock.
“HIGH HORSE” – SAMANTHA CRAIN
The deep, expressive lyrics on “High Horse” can only come from a person who has confronted real pain. Choctaw-American musician and songwriter Samantha Crain delivers a stirring folk song full of vivid imagery and stop-in-your-tracks vocals.