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Saturday, April 29, 2023

Latest picks: Josh Ritter, The Gaslight Anthem, Natalie Merchant, ferna, Matt Epp

Josh Ritter: For Your Soul

On his tenth album, Spectral Lines, Josh Ritter experiments with field recordings - this track opens with the sound of a playground swing - and gap-less transitions from song to song. He describes it as “some kind of trip down the river, just to be carried along by this thing.” Many of the songs are quiet, even hushed. Our pick for the New Music bin is one of the more upbeat tracks, featuring "a chorus that could have come straight from the Traveling Wilburys," as AmericanaUK puts it.

The Gaslight Anthem: Positive Charge

Photo by Casey McAllister
Brian Fallon put the band back together for a tour last year, and the New Jersey quartet has released its first single in nine years to launch another tour this summer. Fallon says the song "began as a message of joy to ourselves and to our audience. The central theme is about looking at the things you’ve come through and feeling like you want to go ahead with an open heart toward the future, believing that the best years are not behind any of us and the good we have is worth something.”

Natalie Merchant: Tower of Babel

From her new album, Keep Your Courage, comes this song that ties the Biblical myth about language barriers to modern miscommunication. “See this house is divided / see we’re broken in two / ... Everybody's so confused,” Merchant sings over piano, simple percussion and backing vocals - punctuated by dynamic horn breaks arranged by trombone player Steve Davis.

Ferna: Open Up

We previously featured the single "New City" from Belfast-based singer-songwriter Hannah McPhillimy, aka Ferna. Now she's released her debut LP, Understudy. She says the collection "is all about what’s going on beneath the surface. Who is not getting to speak? What nuances are we not picking up on? And what happens then, when we become spectators, rather than players, in our own lives?”

Matt Epp: Live Free

The 13th studio album from this Toronto singer-songwriter, Rolling Wave, was mostly self-recorded in a converted rural church on the shore of Lake Huron during the second winter of the pandemic. Music blogger Darryl Sterdan calls this song an "uplifting roots-pop gem ... a testament to following life’s calls to adventure, while shaking off the fear of getting hurt in the process”

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