Today’s New Albums: Béla Fleck, Kacey Musgraves, Heartless Bastards, Low & More
Sasha Dobson, Matthew E. White, Funk You and a Metallica tribute album are also out today.
Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by Béla Fleck, Kacey Musgraves, Heartless Bastards, Low, Sasha Dobson, Matthew E. White, Funk You and a Metallica tribute album. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Béla Fleck – My Bluegrass Heart
The Scoop: Legendary banjoist Béla Fleck today put out My Bluegrass Heart through Renew Records/BMG, marking his first bluegrass album in over 20 years. The 19-track effort features an impressive array of guests from multiple generations including Chris Thile, Billy Strings, Sierra Hull, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Molly Tuttle, Tony Trischka and Bryan Sutton, among others.
My Bluegrass Heart is the third installment of a trilogy that started with the release of Drive in 1988 and continued with 1999’s The Bluegrass Sessions. One of Fleck’s children went through a life-threatening situation that thankfully resolved just fine yet provided the impetus for the album.
“For some reason after that, I found myself suddenly really wanting to do a bluegrass record,” Béla said on The JamBase Podcast. “I think part of it was wanting to reconnect with your community. Another part might have been feeling like you can be in control of something, which you can’t be in life that often. Suddenly, I was compelled. I’d been waiting and putting it off and putting it off and suddenly I was like, ‘I better do this! I gotta do this! I wanna do this! I’m doing this!’”
“Béla took such a collaborative spirit with this,” added Sierra Hull. “He has an ability to bring out the best in people, to allow them to bring what they’re good at and let them shine.” Fleck both wrote the material on and produced My Bluegrass Heart.
Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
The Scoop: Six-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves released her album, star-crossed, today through Interscope Records / UMG Nashville. The LP also arrived with a film of the same name, streaming via Paramount+, starring Musgraves and directed by Bardia Zeinali. The album itself also carries a theatrical quality and is structured as a modern-day tragedy in three acts. The follow-up to Musgraves’ Album Of The Year Grammy Award-winning Golden Hour sees her teaming back up with Golden Hour collaborators and writers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk. Musgraves and her team recorded the 15-track star-crossed in just three weeks in Nashville and previewed the album with the title track and the single “justified.” The new album follows Musgraves’ divorce from fellow singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly. Press materials for the LP noted that star-crossed as a whole “tells an extremely personal journey of heartache and healing and displays Musgraves’ continued growth as one of the finest singer-songwriters of our time.”
Heartless Bastards – A Beautiful Life
The Scoop: Rockers Heartless Bastards return today with their first album in more than five years, A Beautiful Life, via Sweet Unknown Records/Thirty Tigers. While frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom considered releasing the new album as a solo record, the Austin-based singer-songwriter ultimately saw the new effort as a continuation of Heartless Bastards’ 2005 debut LP, Stairs and Elevators. Wennerstrom assembled an ace band composed of longtime Heartless Bastards bassist Jesse Ebaugh along with guitarists Lauren Gurgiolo (Okkervil River) and David Pulkingham (Patty Griffin), drummer Greggory Clifford (White Denim), multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev, Midlake) and keyboardist Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket, Roger Waters). Wennerstrom co-produced A Beautiful Life with Kevin Ratterman (Strand Of Oaks, Jim James). The record also contains guest contributions from renowned singer-songwriter and fiddler Andrew Bird and Persian setar virtuoso Fared Shafinury on “The River.”
A Beautiful Life sees Erika using music to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing civilization like climate change and capitalist consumerism, but also, and perhaps most importantly, human interaction.
“For me, music is a gift,” Wennerstrom said in a statement. “I do it because I love it, and because it helps me feel more connected to the world. I think we all long for a deep connection, and I hope this record adds to the conversation on how we as a species can stop seeing ourselves as separate. I hope it helps everyone to think about how we can look out for each other, take care of each other, and lift each other up.”
Low – Hey What
The Scoop: Duluth, Minnesota’s Low today released the 13th studio album of their 27-year career, Hey What, on the venerable Sub Pop Records. The 10-track Hey What was recorded by Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker following the departure of longtime bassist Steve Garrington. The band described the album as “10 pieces — each built around their own instantaneous, undeniable hook — [that] are turbocharged by the vivid textures that surround them.” The follow-up to 2018’s Double Negative finds Sparhawk and Parker again working with BJ Burton, who produced the previous LP and 2015’s Ones and Sixes as well.
“We’ve been doing this a long time, and I feel like I’ve gotten to bend people’s ears more than most people,” Sparhawk told Pitchfork. “Part of me is like, ‘Are you sure you really wanna listen to this old white guy still whining about his feelings?’ But also, ‘OK, if they are going to listen, I have to make sure what I have to say is actually worth saying.’”
Sasha Dobson – Girl Talk
The Scoop: Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sasha Dobson focuses on her roots in jazz on the new album Girl Talk. The 10-track LP arrived today and features a core band consisting of bassist Neal Miner, drummers Dred Scott and Kenny Wollesen along with guitarist Peter Bernstein. Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco contributed to Girl Talk as did a horn section of Steven Bernstein and Ian Hendrickson Smith
“Over the years, I developed into a guitarist and songwriter,” noted Dobson in a press release. “But in my heart and soul, I am a jazz singer and improviser. And this album represents something essential that I needed to do.” Sasha added, “I’ve loved playing in diverse projects as a guitarist, drummer and vocalist, but I am always listening to jazz when I am home. That’s my happy place.”
Matthew E. White – K Bay
The Scoop: Today, Matthew E. White issued K Bay, his first solo album in six years. The long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Fresh Blood was released via Domino. White named the LP after his home studio in Richmond, Virginia. The 11-track effort was recorded at K Bay as well as at Spacebomb Studio and Montrose Recording. The Spacebomb Records founder is joined on the album by the Spacebomb house band (bassist Cameron Ralston, drummer Pinson Chanselle and orchestral arranger Trey Pollard) as well as multi-instrumentalist Alan Parker and keyboardists Devonne Harris and Daniel Clarke.
Various Artists – The Metallica Blacklist
The Scoop: Over 50 artists from a wide range of genres covered tracks from Metallica’s The Black Album for The Metallica Blacklist, a compilation out today through Blackended Recordings. The 53-track collection comes in honor of the 30th anniversary of Metallica’s self-titled 1991 studio album best known as The Black Album. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, St. Vincent, Phoebe Bridgers, My Morning Jacket, Miley Cyrus, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Kamasi Washington and Alessia Cara & The Warning are among The Metallica Blacklist contributors.
All proceeds from The Metallica Blacklist will be split between Metallica’s All Within My Hands charitable foundation and a charity of each artist’s choice. While the compilation was released digitally today, vinyl and CD editions arrive on October 1.
Funk You – Moving Forward
The Scoop: Georgia-based Funk You are out today with their sixth studio album, Moving Forward. The nine-piece band comprised of Gavin Hamilton (lead vocals), Evan Miller (guitar), William Foster (keyboards), Will Clark (drums), Palmer Owens (percussion), Mark “Earl” Dykes (bass), Gnarly G (saxophone), Josh Spilliards (trombone, sousaphone) and Geoff Wood (trumpet, guitar), recorded the album release at Prana Recording Studios just outside Atlanta. The album was mixed by Andy Headland and Clark and mastered by Chris Griffin.
“Moving Forward really is exactly what it sounds like,” Clark stated. “We’re truly proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last decade and we can’t wait to see what is coming next.
“The music is a big step ahead,” said Miller. “We really took time to focus on our sound in the studio.”
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.