The upper Panhandle of Texas can be desolate and rough terrain. In some respects, it’s a forgotten side of Texas. Much of that can be contributed to its’ sprawling ranches, an off and on oilfield boom and being cut off from many of the states’ larger metroplexes. And that’s exactly where Comanche Moon’s Mark Erickson and Chandler Sidwell were raised. It’s often said to write what you know. Naturally, Comanche Moon tend to drift towards country storytelling that’s rooted in age old traditions. After a promising debut EP in 2015, they’ve returned with Country Music Deathstar (due out August 03), an expansive concept album that captures the windswept plains and prairies. Erickson, Sidwell and company recorded the progressive country album at Yellow Dog Studios with Tim Allen, guitarist for Shane Smith & the Saints (and a budding producer to be on the lookout for) as well as long-time studio vets Adam Odor and Dave Percefull.
While Erickson’s compositions are steeped in tradition, it’s not as though it hinders Comanche Moon’s spacious sound. Songs like “Oilfield Blues,” “Outa This Town” and “So It Goes” have a rollicking punch that drives them forward. Others such as “The Storm” and album closer “Restoration” are marked by their Texas twang and the intimacy of rural West Texas. “Restoration” in particular, is deeply shaped by the sometimes harsh realities of that world. In the Spring of 2017, one of the largest wildfires hit to hit the Panhandle left much of his families ranch and childhood home burnt to ashes. Still, like much of Deathstar, there’s a hardened resilience that outshines the disasters of our lives. It’s what defines Comanche Moon’s brand of Frontier Folk and spacious country sprawl. — Thomas Mooney
Clawhammer banjo picker Nathan Bowles progresses experimental folk with forthcoming album Plainly Mistaken, out Oct. 5 on Paradise of Bachelors. He’s got the avant-garde mind for such elaborate soundscapes as the 10-plus minute “The Road Reversed.” Expect your record collector friends who adore the likes of John Fahey and Bowles collaborator Steve Gunn to be on this like flies on sherbet. They won’t be the only new devotees, as Bowles’ instrumental jams should impress anyone with an appreciation for modern updates to Appalachian music—from deadheads to hardcore bluegrass musicians. He also wears his old-time influences on his sleeve by covering Cousin Emmy original turned Buck Owens and Osborne Brothers cut “Ruby.” It’s similar enough to the Silver Apples version that it doesn’t kill the album’s experimental buzz. — Bobby Moore
Austin Lucas’s voice has taken him many places: he’s an in-demand performer in Europe and has toured alongside the likes of Chuck Ragan, Glossary, American Aquarium, Jason Isbell, John Moreland, and even Willie Nelson. For his new album Immortal Americans, it’s landed him in the studio with Centromatic’s Will Johnson (who produced Chris Porter’s posthumous Don’t Go Baby, It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You) and the legendary Steve Albini (who produced albums by Nirvana, Pixies, Joanna Newsome, The Frames, among many, many others.) Even with these credentials, Austin’s signature mix of choir boy vocals, poetic lyrics, and punk rock journeyman’s attitude haven’t allowed Austin to net the brass ring. Immortal Americans will change that. It’s a collection of soul-baring songs from an artist who’s known for writing deeply personal lyrics. In it, Austin digs into his new relationship with sobriety, breaking up with his longtime record label, and supporting his partner through a battle with cancer. Now that Lucas is smoke-free, his voice is as supple as ever, perfectly conveying the heartbreaks and triumphs since his last release, 2016’s Between the Moon and the Midwest. — Rachel Cholst
After a second place finish on The Voice in 2016, Adam Wakefield released a self-titled EP that earned him praise for his left-of-center roots revival sound. A phenomenal musician in his own right, Wakefield is out to show the rest of the world how much he’s grown as a songwriter, too. He just released two new singles, “Cheap Whiskey & Bad Cocaine” and “Dry Days.” In both cases, Wakefield doesn’t mind making himself the brunt of the joke. Whereas some artists may be content to ride out the short-lived wave of a successful national television run and present themselves as a little more “successful” than they are, Wakefield keeps his feet planted firmly on the ground as he explores the paradigms of egotism and the realities of being down on your luck. The singles are a preview of a larger body of work due out in the near future, and if they’re any indication, Wakefield could make a big splash in an already crowded Americana stew. — Jeremy Burchard