Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday, which means the time has come again to take a fresh look at newly-released music. As more frequent visitors of the blog know, my favorite decades are the ’60s and the ’70s, which can make finding contemporary music that speaks to me a tough proposition. But after having written this weekly feature for some 20 months, I can safely say there’s still some new music out there I dig. Some weeks it’s a longer process to find it than others. This time, putting together the post went pretty quickly. My picks include some country, rock and indie rock. All tunes are on albums that were released yesterday (October 29).

Emily Scott Robinson/Things You Learn the Hard Way

I’d like to start with Emily Scott Robinson, who according to her website is a Colorado-based singer-songwriter: Robinson grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and turned toward guitar at age 13, after a summer camp counselor closed out the nights by playing songs by Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and Dar Williams every night. She taught herself to play in the early 2000s by printing guitar tabs from the internet and singing to CDs by Indigo Girls and James Taylor. But she didn’t pursue songwriting until after seeing Nanci Griffith perform in Greensboro in 2007… Graduating from Furman University with degrees in history and Spanish, Robinson took a job as a social worker and translator in 2011…In 2013, she found kindred spirits at Planet Bluegrass’ The Song School, a songwriting retreat in Lyons, Colorado, where other participants encouraged her talent, and just as importantly, showed her that being a touring musician could be a viable financial option. I wonder how many other young artists share that view. Robinson’s debut album Magnolia Queen appeared in 2016. Things You Learn the Hard Way is a track from her new album American Siren, a mix of bluegrass, country and folk. Like all other tunes on the record, the song was written by her – pretty music, and I also like Robinson’s voice.

Jerry Cantrell/Brighten

Jerry Cantrell is best known as lead guitarist, lead vocalist and the main songwriter of Seattle rock band Alice in Chains, which he formed in 1987. While I definitely know their name, I don’t believe I’ve heard any of their music. In addition to recording six albums with the group and collaborations with Ozzy Osborne and other artists, Cantrell has released four solo albums to date, starting with Boggy Depot from March 1998. Brighten, written by Cantrell, is the title track of his new album. Nice rocker!

Charlotte Cornfield/Blame Myself

Charlotte Cornfield is a Canadian singer-songwriter who was born in Toronto. According to Wikipedia, her music has been compared to the likes of The Band, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young. Cornfield has also mentioned David Bowie, Joni Mitchell and Gillian Welch among her influences – many big names here! During her childhood, Cornfield played the piano, drums and French horn. Following her relocation to Montreal where she studied jazz drumming at Concordia University, Cornfield decided to pursue a professional career as a solo artist. Her debut EP It’s Like That Here came out in 2008. Her first full-length album Two Horses was released in March 2011. Blame Myself, penned by Cornfield, appears on her new album Highs in the Minuses, her fouth.

The War on Drugs/Change

The War on Drugs are an indie rock band that was founded in Philadelphia in 2005. Again, while I’m definitely familiar with their name, I can’t identify any of their songs. According to their profile on Apple Music, the group has been a vehicle for singer-songwriter Adam Granduciel, whose synth-infused folk-rock storytelling has drawn comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. The War on Drugs began as a duo with Granduciel and singer-songwriter Kurt Vile, who appeared on 2008’s debut Wagonwheel Blues before making a name for himself as a solo artist. Their breakout LP Slave Ambient, which landed at No. 5 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart, was named on Pitchfork’s list of the Top 50 Albums of 2011. This brings me to the band’s fifth and new studio album I Don’t Live Here Anymore. Here’s a great tune called Change, co-written by Granduciel, together with band members Anthony LaMarca (guitar, percussion, drums, vibraphone, pedal steel guitar) and Dave Hartley (bass, guitar). Based on this and a few other songs I’ve heard from the new album, I want to further explore this band.

Sources: Wikipedia; Emily Scott Robinson website; Apple Music; YouTube

8 thoughts on “Best of What’s New”

  1. I think some musicians would tell you the road is the ONLY way to make a living now that people don’t buy albums like they used to and streaming pays pennies. The two I most enjoyed here were Cornfield and Cantrell. I hate to say it but after growing up with the likes of Joplin and Tina Turner, too many of these female singer-songwriters sound exactly alike. But Cornfield’s song is not a bad one. I’m reasonably familiar with Alice in Chains to the point of recognizing their sound when they come on the radio. I wouldn’t call myself a big fan but they’re good. I once featured one of their more popular tunes called “Rooster” that you might like. The song is about Cantrell’s father who served in Vietnam.

    I’ve read enough bloggers to know War on Music is pretty popular. That song sounded pretty generic to me. Interestingly, just yesterday I was listening to the Stones “Scarlet” song, the one they released after 40 years or so that Jimmy Page played on. I mention it because for some reason War on Drugs did a remix of it. God knows why. It’s not even that great of a song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jim. I think you’re spot on about the importance of touring nowadays – and merchandise. And endorsements, if an artist is fortunate enough to get some!

      That’s why bands like Southern Avenue are on the road nearly all the time, circumstances allowing. In fact, I saw on Facebook they just played their final gig for the year yesterday. Their lead vocalist is highly pregnant and expected to deliver soon. That’s the only reason they are taking a break! They are already booking shows for next year.

      That Alice in Chains tune “Rooster” is pretty haunting. Every time I see footage about that war, it just boils my blood. So many young lives destroyed for fuckin’ nothing!

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      1. Yeah, you got it on Vietnam, bro. History has revealed that LBJ knew enough that he could have stopped it in 1965 with “only” 2500 US dead. Instead our stupid government played it out for 10 more years, some 68,000 US lives and I don’t know how many Vietnamese.

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      2. Interestingly, it was my daughter that clued me in to “Rooster.” She was only four when it came out. But I guess she and her crowd caught up with it. She told me about it and what the theme was. Her tastes are pretty eclectic but not necessarily in that direction. But her girlfriend’s favorite band is Rammstein and they are going to go see them. They must also, by default, be one of your favorites as they are German.

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  2. When I first looked at the cover for Emily Scott Robinson…I thought…this can’t be new…this picture looks like it’s from 1973 lol…she sounds great and has that old country sound to match.

    I like the The War on Drugs song….that is right up my alley.

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  3. I really like the War on Drugs, and their previous album “A Deeper Understanding” is phenomenal. Adam’s vocals remind a little of a young Bob Dylan, only better. Three of their best songs I recommend you check out are “Red Eyes”, “Pain” and “Holding On”. Such beautiful melodies and gorgeous guitars, they bring tears to my eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

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