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Elise Davis

The Token

Make the Kill Records

Davis is a country rebel. Her creamy southern voice isn’t about the tread the well-worn road—The Token is moody, modern and fearless. With phrases like “I’ll never beg you to be with me,” she’s a welcome emblem of bucking the trend of love songs that strip away independence and identity. We need more Davises in country music and beyond. Appearing at the 30A Songwriters Festival Jan. 13-15.

– Nikki Hedrick

Robby Hecht

Robby Hecht

Soundcloud

Nashville singer-songwriter Hecht’s 2014 self-titled (third) album charts its own ambling path among low-key country, blues and ballad poetry. You can find hints of Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, and not a little touch of good old Harry Nilsson among the 13 all-original tracks. His measured delivery and timing show a mature mastery of storytelling and phrasing. His arrangements and accompaniment are likewise deceptively simple. Hecht has the kind of delicately forceful voice that can fool you into thinking anyone can do what he’s doing. His songs are face-to-face conversations, the kind you need to shut up and listen to. Appearing at the 30A Songwriters Festival.

– Bruce Collier

Ty Herndon

House on Fire

Journey On Entertainment

On House on Fire, Herndon embraces some pop sensibilities and tackles weighty issues in subtle ways. On the surface, this is a country album—polished and ready for airplay. But as you dig into Herndon’s life, it becomes much more. Either perspective leads to the same conclusion—the album is deserving of a listen from any country fan. Appearing at the 30A Songwriters Festival.

– Nikki Hedrick

Griffin House

So On and So Forth

Evening Records

With a quick turn of phrase and vivid storytelling, House is an accessible Americana artist. He’s the sum of all his parts, freely borrowing from all avenues to craft an album that is atmospheric and rich. House is the type of well-rounded songwriter that is easy to sit up and take notice of—you’ll want to keep tabs on him as his career develops. Appearing at the 30A Songwriters Festival.

– Nikki Hedrick

Davin McCoy

Whiskey Sexy

Blank Records

The songlist of Atlanta-based singer, guitarist and songwriter McCoy’s sophomore album was reportedly written in two weeks “with a bottle of whiskey and a guitar,” then recorded in the company of some of McCoy’s favorite Atlanta musicians—plus a bar and pool table. The resulting effort could have sounded self-indulgent, but it isn’t. McCoy’s young-old rasp, impressive range and turn of phrase combine to provide just the right edge to cut through any potentially lurking clichés. There’s a slim thread of Leonard Cohen that weaves its way through some of the material, minus Cohen’s restless solemnity. Appearing at the 30A Songwriters Festival.

– Bruce Collier

Nine Inch Nails

Not the Actual Events

The Null Corporation

NIN closed 2016 by dropping its first album in three years (billed as a “surprise relase”), albeit a five-track EP. The real surprise is the announcement of Atticus Ross as an official NIN member. Despite the rotating band members over the years, the only other official member is frontman, founder and Ross’ frequent movie soundtrack collaborator Trent Reznor. Considering NIN’s 20-plus year history, this is a pretty big deal. Also no small deal—legendary Daves Navarro and Grohl guest on the album. With so much talent—and at 51, Reznor singing unfalteringly, without so much as a trace of an aging quaver—how could this be anything but good?

– Joni Williams

EDITOR’S PICKS – 30A FEST SPECIAL

Colvin & Earle, Colvin & Earle. Hopefully, Steve Earle will make it out for next year’s event. In the meantime, enjoy this collaboration with 30A Fest headliner Shawn Colvin, who enhances the throwback twang vibe. Somehow, the album finds the perfect balance between loose jam and studio professionalism.

 

John Prine, For Better, Or Worse. Excellent follow-up to Prine’s duets classic In Spite of Ourselves brings back Iris DeMent (lucky us) and a bunch of newcomers, not the least of whom is Kacey Musgraves. She and Prine dust off the unlikely Buck Owens oldie “Mental Cruelty” to giddy effect.

 

Willie Sugarcapps, Paradise Right Here. The Americana supergroup’s second album is every bit as good as the debut, and it’s obvious to anyone with ears that Kimbrough, Capps, et.al. aren’t saving their best stuff for their solo albums. In terms of sheer talent, I’d compare them to the platinum-selling lineup of Fleetwood Mac.

 

Chely Wright, I Am the Rain. Wright has been missing in action for the last few festivals, and her return in smaller (i.e., non-“big” name) print on the posters might make you think she’s not as vital as she used to be. Wrong. She’s never sounded better—intriguing production, too, and choice material, including a cover of Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” that rivals Elvis’ and Rod Stewart’s.

– Chris Manson
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