Each quarter, Utne Reader presents music gleaned from current and upcoming releases on independent music labels. This sampler was curated by associate editor Ben Sauder.
Artist: Kikaguka Moyo
Record label: Guruguru Brain
Latest album: Stone Garden (out now)
Featured song: “Nobakitani”
Why we like this song: What begins as an acoustic guitar-driven western ranch porch song shifts into a lazy slide guitar and sitar groove. The understated vocals help keep the focus on the meditatively chugging beat.
Artist: Orchestra Baobab
Record Label: World Circuit Records
Latest album: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (out now)
Featured song: “Foulo”
Why we like this song: Nearly 50 years after the band’s inception, Orchestra Baobab still has so much joy to offer through their West African rhythms and cheerful singing and playing. “Foulo” is no exception.
Artist: The Jerry Cans
Record Label: Aakuluk Music
Latest album: Inuusiq (out now)
Featured song: “Nirlit”
Why we like this song: From Nunavut, the northernmost territory of Canada, The Jerry Cans combine solo throat-singing with a fiddle-centric roots sound.
Latest album: New Black Swing (out June 23)
Featured song: “Wild”
Why we like this song: SassyBlack’s smooth R&B vocals glide over a psychedelic synth pattern, a crunchy drum machine beat, and electric piano.
Artist: Rachel Kilgour
Record Label: NewSong Recordings
Latest album: Rabbit in the Road (out now)
Featured song: “Rabbit in the Road”
Why we like this song: Rachel Kilgour’s strength comes in the form of deep cutting lyrics of heartbreak and the convincing, aching voice she employs to sing them. “With your hands around his neck you spared his misery / How swift you gave that rabbit what you couldn’t give to me.”
Artist: Michael Nau
Record Label: Suicide Squeeze
Latest album: Some Twist (out now)
Featured song: “I Root”
Why we like this song: On the heels of last year’s beautiful Mowing, Michael Nau has returned with an album that is distinctly his own sound. “I Root” sees Nau furthering his penchant for smooth grooves of acoustic guitar, Mellotron, lo-fi drum beats, and super clean vocals.
Artist: Rev. Sekou
Record Label: Zent Records in conjunction with Thirty Tigers
Latest album: In Times Like These (out now)
Featured song: “Resist”
Why we like this song: “Resist” opens with a speech Rev. Osagyefo Sekou gave in his hometown of St. Louis following the death of Michael Brown. The song then kicks in with a classic blues/gospel vibe and serves as a modern protest against inequality with a rousing chorus singing “We want freedom and we want it now!”
Artist: Ethan Daniel Davidson
Record Label: Blue Arrow Records
Latest album: Crows (out now)
Featured song: “My Own Bad”
Why we like this song: The gravelly-voiced singer has spent years on the road touring and sleeping under the open sky. His experience comes out through dark cosmic country songs like “My Own Bad.” “There ain’t no devil makes me do nothing / I can do my own bad just fine.”
Artist: Kondi Band
Record Label: Strut Records
Latest album: Salone (out now)
Featured song: “Yeanoh (Powe Handa Blingabe)”
What you should know: After seeing a Youtube video of Sorie Kondi, a Sierra Leonean kondi (thumb piano) master, producer DJ Chief Boima set out to meet and collaborate with the musician. The result is their fascinating album Salone.
Artist: Harry Taussig
Record Label: Tompkins Square
Latest album: The Music of Harry Taussig & Max Ochs (out now)
Featured song: “Into the Veil of Years”
Why we like this song: It’s been 50 years since Harry Taussig and Max Ochs were featured playing their music in the sampler Contemporary Guitar — Spring ‘67‘ along with the likes of John Fahey and Robbie Basho. Now, the pair are releasing newly recorded music to celebrate the anniversary with beautiful finger picking acoustic folk like on Taussig’s “Into the Veil of Years.”