Summer Playlist with Justin Townes Earle, Austin Meade, The Vandoliers, Southern Avenue and more

It’s summer time again and that means there’s a ton of new releases vying to become the soundtrack of your soon to be epic vacation. So rather than focus on just one, here’s a roundup of the best new releases to get your summer started on the right sandal-shod foot.


Justin Townes Earle The Saint of Lost Causes

Justin’s musical star continues to rise on his latest release. His combination of Delta Blues and Western Swing is pure musical alchemy. From the staccato rhythms of “Ain’t Got No Money,” and “Don’t Drink the Water,” to the fluid melodies of “Frightened by the Sound,” and “Over Alameda,” Earle’s musical arrangements make songs with similar tempos sound radically different. The one constant is the beautiful steel guitar that runs through nearly every song like a glistening, babbling brook through his musical landscape. Although at times a touch more cynical than his previous release, he’s still one hell of a storyteller. Even when he just evokes a mood, like on the gorgeous “Mornings in Memphis,” his lyrics are always poetic and personal. And his “matter of fact” vocal style makes every song feel intimate.

Summer Playlist Must Have: “Pacific North Western Blues”

Channeling his inner Bob Wills, Earle pays homage to the Pacific Northwest and its infamous inclement weather. As always, the steel guitar is the star of this show, but the bass line and harmonica riffs add wonderful texture to this traditional Texas Swing number.  |  buy  |  fb


Austin Meade Waves

An appropriately named album to start our summer playlist. It rolls in on a tidal wave of Classic 70’s guitar hero riffs on the first two songs, “7 Letters” and “Pay Phone” then eases into a more laid-back early Eagles Southern California vibe. After the onslaught of the first two rockers, Meade waxes introspective as he adds acoustic guitars and atmospheric effects to contemplate themes of hope and yearning. It’s music well suited for trying to find yourself, especially if you find yourself seaside, watching the waves roll in.

Summer Playlist Must Have: “Growing Pains”

Like the gentle lapping waves of low tide, this song ebbs and flows to a peaceful but powerful rhythm enhanced by Hammond organ and delightfully rippling guitar riffs. Against this backdrop Meade contemplates some of his life choices and admits that, “I’d like to go back when I knew no shame. I’d like to go back before everything changed.” But thanks to Meade, if we must face the regrets of our past, at least we can do it in time with these beautifully flowing melodies.  |  buy   |  fb


Jared Deck Bully Pulpit

Starting off with hand claps, drums and a gospel chorus, Jared Deck takes the microphone like a Southern Baptist preacher in full throated glory. Songs like “I Don’t Know What You Come To Do,” “Money Back,” “Great American Breakdown,” and “True Believer” are full-on gospel numbers that sing the praises of God and Rock and Roll, as well as the warnings of faithless lovers and politicians. But it’s when he slows things down and pares back the band that his voice really shines. On numbers like “Where I Fall,” “Make Your Mama Proud,” and “Over and Over,” Deck’s voice resonates with the power and pathos of a tortured soul begging for redemption. The musical arrangements on these tracks is striking in its stark simplicity. Deck sings virtually acapella while a single guitar or guitar and organ combination fill the spaces between verses. The effect is a vocal performance that touches the heart as much as the ears.

Summer Playlist Must Have: “Money Back”

Gospel flavored number with tongue in cheek humor about a bait and switch involving a young woman’s invitation to see the promised land. The chorus is sure to have you singing along and possibly even testifying.  |  buy  |  fb


The Vandoliers Forever

These red dirt rockers from Fort Worth deliver an infectious DIY blend of Rock, Country, Folk, Punk and Tejano that’s guaranteed to get you up and moving. From the manic mariachi strains of “All On Black,” “Sixteen Years,” and “Bottom Dollar Boy,” to the fiddle infused rockers “Miles and Miles,” “Troublemaker,” and “Tumbleweed,” The Vandoliers balance intensity and melody with unbridled energy. Frontman Joshua Fleming’s raspy voice is the perfect vehicle to deliver these anthems of fun and freedom.

Summer Playlist Must Have: “Miles And Miles”

If you’re traveling by car this summer, this should be your lead off track. Beginning with frantic fiddle strains, and building tension with guitar and piano, the Vandoliers sing an ode to the open road, proclaiming, “Come Hell or high water, I am a traveler born to roam. I’ve got miles and miles to go.”  |  buy  |  fb


Renee Wahl Cut to the Bone

Renee Wahl belts out a gritty, bluesy style of Country Noir that explores the dark corners of the human condition. Changing roles from the doting partner (“Me Before You”) to the tempting Siren (“Temptation”) to the heartless black widow (“To The Bone,”) Wahl promises to “put you before me,” before boasting that she’ll “cut you to the bone.” Maybe the song “Meds” explains her change in demeaner as “we’re just adjusting my meds.” Or perhaps she’s a metaphor for life’s ups and downs that can drag you through Hell before they lead you to Heaven. Either way, with Wahl’s sensual voice it’s a ride you’ll want to take.

Summer Playlist Must Have: “Cold Day In Memphis”

An enigmatic tryst involving a couple just south of the law plays out in the back streets of Memphis. The lyrics are purposely vague, but the voice is beautifully clear; and the mood is vintage Hollywood noir.  |  buy fb


Chelsey Danfield At The Time

Country songstress, Danfield is following in the footsteps of Kacey Musgraves and Lindi Ortega. Blending her Country sensibilities with touches of Pop and Rock, she creates a modern Country that’s fresh without being overly polished. Of course, there are ballads (“Can’t Make You Stay,” “The Last Time,” and “Falling,”) but Danfield hits her stride when she increases the tempo and the attitude. “My Possession” and “Where the Sun Don’t Shine” are rip roaring retorts to cheating lovers. “Bathtub” is a virtual “Cocaine Blues” from a woman’s point of view. The rockabilly rave up, “Bell Bottom Jeans,” is another stand out. For a young songwriter, Chelsey Danfield tells compelling stories with memorable melodies.

Summer Playlist Must Have: “Far Enough from You”

A sassy, scorned-woman, honky-tonk barn burner of a song. With plenty of attitude and steel guitar accompaniment, Danfield turns the typical Country heartbreak song from “tear in my beer” to “sneer in my beer.”  |  buy  |  fb

Southern Avenue Keep On

Southern Avenue are the perfect blend of Motown and Memphis. Lead singer Tierinii Jackson has a pitch perfect Diana Ross voice and the band has the earthy, soulful feeling of the house band for Staxx records, Booker T & the MGs. Sometimes bluesy (“Keep On,” “The Tea I Sip,” “Lucky,”) and sometimes funky (“Whiskey Love,” “Switchup,” and “Jive,”) but always filled to the brim with Soul, Southern Avenue joins the growing ranks of Americana artists embracing their Soul roots. When they sing of broken hearts and hard living, they sing from experience and you feel it in every lyric and note.

Summer Playlist Must Have: “We’ve Got The Music”

Irresistibly catchy and immensely danceable, this song gives a much-needed lesson on living together in harmony: “If you don’t look like me. If you don’t talk like me, that’s all right – We’ve got the music.” Hopefully the tune and the message will catch on.  |  buy  |  fb


Whitey Johnson More Days Like This

Award winning, songwriting legend Gary Nicholson unleashes his seldom seen alter-ego Whitey Johnson for only the second time on this album. After penning Grammy winning songs for Buddy Guy and Delbert McClinton, Nicholson (aka Johnson) picks up the mic and takes center stage. Playing that same feel-good Blues style that has won awards for others, Nicholson sings and plays foot-stomping, horn-driven, guitar-riffing, organ-blaring, finger-licking Blues that’s guaranteed to drive your blues away. Although primarily Chicago style Blues, Nicholson (aka Johnson) incorporates Soul, Gospel, Country and Memphis Blues to add more layers of flavor than a Chicago deep dish pizza.

Summer Playlist Must Have: “Hold What I Got”

Horns and organ drive this soulful celebration of fidelity. It’s a joyful reminder that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, if we’d just stop to take the time and appreciate what we already have.  |  fb

Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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