Like many great Southern storytellers, singer-songwriter Tyler Childers has fallen in love with a place. The people, landmarks and legendary moments from his childhood home of Lawrence County, Kentucky, populate the 10 songs in his formidable debut, Purgatory, an album that’s simultaneously modern and as ancient as the Appalachian Mountains in which events unfold. “I was writing an album about being in the mountains,” Childers said. “I wanted it to have that gritty mountain sound. But at the same time, I wanted a more modern version of it that a younger generation can listen to — the people I grew up with, something I’d want to listen to.”
Caamp is a folk trio from Ohio, making beautiful noise. Started by boyhood friends Evan Westfall and Taylor Meier, Caamp came to life in Athens, Ohio. Taylor began penning and playing original songs at coffee shops around Athens in 2013. Evan moved down a couple of years later and together in a hazy attic, enjoying light beers, they would find the heartfelt sound that became Caamp. Since independently releasing their self-titled first record in 2016, they have climbed Spotify charts, headlined the US, purchased denim jackets and added a bass-playing buddy, Matt Vinson – who also enjoys light beers and denim. With their sophomore album Boys on the horizon, the Ohioan folk trio have high hopes and no reservations.
With gritty vocals over rock riffs and horns, The Commonheart delivers an emotion-packed, soulful sound that lights up any stage. Frontman Clinton Clegg is a powerhouse who commands full attention with his limitless onstage energy and vocal range. The new album Grown is a remarkable display of each member’s talent interlacing heavy blues, soul, and gospel influence across trumpet, saxophone, keys, guitar, and singers. The Commonheart’s sound is a true testament to the past while completely holding its own as one of today’s most promising acts.
Known for their progressive song writing and energetic live performances, Mo Lowda & The Humble’s beginnings were in the beer-soaked basements of Philadelphia. Following the release of their first full length album in 2013, the trio, consisting of Jordan Caiola, Shane Woods, and Nate Matulis began playing venues throughout the city. After experiencing the high of multiple sold out hometown shows, Mo Lowda took their act on the road and began consistently touring the country. Their 2016 sophomore release, Act Accordingly, was a short and sweet embodiment of the band’s natural progression; refining their already formidable sound. Following that release, Jeff Lucci stepped in as the new bassist, bringing his unique songwriting and tasteful use of effects pedals into the mix.
A grassroots following, now hundreds of thousands deep, has turned to Sean for a kind of musical exploration for almost 20 years. Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Meat Loaf, Jake Owen, Brothers Osborne, Christina Aguilera, Buddy Miller and more have all recorded his songs––a dizzying list that spans not just styles, but generations. Success shows no sign of slowing: Sean earned his first no. 1 single on country charts in early 2018 with breakout artist Brett Young’s delivery of “Mercy,” which the two co-wrote. As a performer, Sean packs listening rooms and quiets unruly bar crowds. His sound––a warm tenor painting vivid stories over acoustic guitar often cushioned by keys or other strings––has prompted a diverse range of music scenes from the storied Boston folk community to Texas’s defiantly self-sovereign camp to warmly claim Sean as one of their own.
“My payoff is just making the music,” Sean says, then smiles. “Everything else is bonus.”
At 34 year-old, Sean has the catalog of artists twice his age. He released his first album at just 15, and until his acclaimed eponymous record in 2015, he did it all independently. “Bootstrapping your own career, you get to build at an organic pace that allows you to grow with your music,” he says. “It teaches you how most musicians do it. Overnight success is not the rule––it’s the exception. Most of us are doing it the other way.”