6 Albums to Kickstart Your Summer
From indie rock to country, the South has cultivated a notable music scene with a diverse collection of artists. And as Southerners, what could be better than singing along to new tunes while riding with the windows down? So, give these new albums whether it’s during your car ride into work or cruising to that vacation destination.
The Waterfall by My Morning Jacket
Alternative rock never sounded so good until Kentucky’s own My Morning Jacket came along in 1999 with its mixed bag of indie and country sounds. The band recently released its newest album, The Waterfall, in May. As a whole, the album spans a wide variety of genres that all resonate with a Southern summer. From the distorted, bluesy guitar solo in “Believe (Nobody Knows)” to the fingerpicked ballad in “Like a River,” the album is sure to get you hooked.
Recommended Listening: “Believe (Nobody Knows),” “Like a River,” “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)” and “Big Decisions”
Coming Home by Leon Bridges
Texas-based singer and songwriter Leon Bridges garnered media attention recently when he released a stream of his upcoming album Coming Home. The album is due out on June 23 via Columbia Records, and after listening, I believe all of the attention will be well deserved. Bridges’ ability to craft an album that is filled with vintage, soul sounds is amazing for someone who is only 25 years old. Essential songs are “Coming Home, “Better Man” and “River,” summing up who Bridges is and what kind of sound he’s becoming known for. And those sounds are carefully constructed around Bridges’ uniquely delivered vocals and his guitar work. His songwriting also emits a sense of place with lyrics like “I’d swim the Mississippi River if you would give me another start girl.” If you want an album that transports you back to the ’60s or reminds you of Sam Cooke, then this one’s for you.
Recommended listening: “Coming Home,” “Better Man” and “River”
Voyageurs by Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
If you’re in search of an album that resonates with a South Louisiana summer, then you need to check out Voyageurs, the newest release by Cajun band Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys. The album is the band’s twelfth release, and they have only gotten better with time. Debuting in 1990 with a self-titled album, the band quickly climbed the musical ladder, garnering Grammy nominations and a win in 2013. Now, the band is back with 13 tracks doused in Cajun sounds. Songs like “Tite Fille de la Campagne” and “La Danse de Mardi Gras” are the definition of bayou music, as Kevin Wimmer plays the fiddle against a myriad of countrified guitar work and vocals.
Recommended listening: “Au Revoir Grand Mamou,” “Tite Fille de la Campagne,” “Plus Creux” and “Bottle It Up”
Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes
Nothing wakes you up in the morning like the reverb-drenched sounds heard on the Alabama Shakes‘ newest album Sound & Color. Delving into the depths of genres like psychedelic rock and soulful blues, the band represents the best of modern, Southern rock music. The 12 tracks on the album were made with care and it’s obvious when Brittany Howard lets the first vocal line shriek among the vibraphone tones of opening track “Sound & Color.” Soon after, Heath Fogg breaks out shiny and crunched guitar riffs in “Don’t Wanna Fight,” meshing perfectly with Howard’s aggressive vocal deliveries. The band even manages to incorporate punk tones into their sound with track “The Greatest.” With delicate, yet aggressive instrumentation and soulful vocals, this album is sure to get you running out the door and on your way.
Recommended listening: “Sound & Color,” “Don’t Wanna Fight” and “The Greatest”
Traveller by Chris Stapleton
First things first, Traveller by Chris Stapleton is the road trip album of the summer. Is there a better way to enjoy a car ride than the combination of songwriting and twangy guitars? No. Traveller features 14 songs of countrified rock ‘n’ roll that sometimes venture into folk. Stapleton has written songs for some of the music industry’s best (Adele, Vince Gill, etc.) and has now taken his skill set and applied it to himself. Opening song “Traveller” lets listeners know that he has the vocal range to match his lyrical content. Throughout the choruses, Stapleton proudly shouts, “I’m just a traveller on this Earth.” I promise this album is worth your time and just might become the soundtrack to your summer.
Recommended listening: “Traveller,” “Tennessee Whiskey” and “When the Stars Come Out”
Jekyll + Hyde by Zac Brown Band
Since finding mainstream success with songs like “Chicken Fried” and “Toes,” Zac Brown Band has come a long way. The band’s most recent release Jekyll + Hyde more or less portrays that journey and each song on the album stays true to the band’s knack for strong storytelling, all the while maintaining carefully placed hooks. “Homegrown” is by far the highlight and most definitely a Southern anthem. Brown sings, “I got a piece of land, out in the countryside, lay back and smell the sun, warm up the Georgia pine, feels so good to be taking it easy.” Breaking from the norm, “Mango Tree” features singer and songwriter Sara Bareilles, while Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell sits in on “Heavy is the Head.” As you can see, this album is a bit experimental for the band best known for its acoustics. Their efforts for change are most obvious on “Junkyard,” which leans toward rock ‘n’ roll rather than country. If you’re looking for something different from a familiar band, then this album is for you.
Recommended Listening: “Homegrown,” “Mango Tree,” “Loving You Easy” and “Junkyard”