This week’s mix is bookended by two very different anthems of our times (all Texans there), and in between you’ll find Florida punk rock from trusted activists, raucous rap out of Atlanta, sweeping ballads, heavy rock, and so much folk music. I wrote the word “folk” a bunch of times today, but you’ll understand why.
For those of you who don’t know, this series is my homage to the many, many talented Southern women and non-binary and trans Southerners making great music. I include the state they live in or hail from, some odds and ends, a video, and a Spotify playlist.
Texas: FEA, “Feminazi”
A few of the powerhouse talents from the on-a-break San Antonio indie rock band Girl in a Coma, Jenn Alva and Phanie Diaz joined forces with Letty Martinez and Aaron Magana to form Chicano punk outfit, FEA. These folks have fire in their hearts, and they’ve created the feminist anthem you’ve been waiting for. Their debut LP was produced by Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace and Alice Bag of the Bags.
Florida: Against Me!, “333”
Speak of the devils. In a recent Rolling Stones feature, frontwoman and longtime Gainesville-based Laura Jane Grace discussed her life after she began transitioning, the toll it took on her marriage, and the ever-becoming-ness of it all. It’s a heartbreaking read that can serve as a companion of sorts to Against Me!’s lastest album, Shape Shift with Me. “333” was the lead single and deals with a painful struggle with intimacy, “All the devils that you don’t know/Can all come along for the ride/I wanna be as close as I can get to you.” The video was directed by Ione Skye (eeeeeeeeeee!) and stars “lesbian icon” Natasha Lyonne.
Georgia: Salma Slims, “Middle Fingers”
Angry, brutal, and not at all safe for work. This ferocious single from Atlanta rapper Salma Slim’s 2015 album is about getting mad and getting even. Frankly, it’s pretty intimidating. But it’s also empowering, so no worries. Also, Slims just put out a new mixtape (not yet on Spotify, hence not on this list), “The Diary of Salma Slims,” on which she raps shoes and clothes, sex, love, and growing up the daughter of Muslim immigrants.
Georgia: CUSSES, “Golden Rat”
Angel Bond, frontwoman of Savannah-based punk band CUSSES, dealt with a persisting thyroid ailment that resulted in surgery in the year leading up to the recording and release of their Kickstarter-funded sophomore album, Here Comes the Rat. It affected her vocal chords and made singing difficult and painful, but you wouldn’t know it to hear her belt through “Golden Rat.” This is a heavy band with big sounds that also has its softer moments. “Golden Rat is one of the bigger, heavier songs.
Virginia: Rachael Yamagata, “Let Me Be Your Girl”
Arlington-native Rachael Yamagata sings, writes beautiful songs, and skillfully plays those lush ballads on what one would assume is a gorgeous grand piano or maybe an old Tom Waits-type upright. Either way, you’ve surely heard one of her songs. They’ve been featured in many emotional scenes in emotionally-charged tv shows like Nip/Tuck (remember those folks?), One Tree Hill, Brothers & Sisters, and Grey’s Anatomy. This is her latest (the video was released a few days ago) from her brand new album, and it’s breathtaking.
Tennessee: Ruby Amanfu, “Cathedrals”
Born in Ghana, Ruby Amanfu’s musician dad moved the family to Nashville when she was three years old. She’s became a musical prodigy, spent some time studying at Berkeley before returning home to sing and write with and for the luminaries of Music City, become best friends with Reese Witherspoon, collaborate with Jack White, and, most recently, lend backup vocals to Beyonce’s Lemonade. “Cathedrals” is a memorable Jump, Little Children cover from Amanfu’s most recent solo album, 2015’s Standing Still.
Louisiana: Hestina, “Belong”
New Orleans-based, soul folk duo Hestina is comprised of Kimberly Vice and Michelle Ausman. They’ve mastered haunting harmonies with a rootsy, murder ballad-y charm. “Belong” is quiet, beautiful chaos that swells into an indie rock battle cry before settling back down. It’s from their debut album, Blossom Talk, and the video is a shadow puppet show, in case you were doubting their effortlessly quirky soulfulness.
Virginia: Becca Mancari, “Summertime Mama”
Lynchburg-native Becca Mancari was recently featured as one of NPR’s “Nine Artists to Watch for at Americana Fest 2016,” and it has a lot to do with raw talent, a poet’s pen, and this awesome song. I ran across an interview with Mancari, where she claimed the inspiration for “Summertime Mama” came from daydreaming about her hometown while working as a janitor at a Florida public school. I was hooked. This is soulful, rootsy folk with an indie sensibility.
North Carolina: Alexa Rose, “The Bear”
Singer/songwriter Alexa Rose has all of the plaintive yodels and delicate-yet-smart lyrics to more than satisfy the folk-obsessed among us. And just to make her point clear, here’s the Asheville-based artist sitting on top of a mountain, presumably in the fall, with a tank top and plaid scarf, strumming and singing “The Bear” from her 2013 debut album, North.
Texas: Maren Morris, “80s Mercedes”
If you’ve listened to country music radio in the last year, you’ve likely heard of the sparkling phenom, Maren Morris, who will make pop country music not just palatable to us discerning folks but also enjoyable. The Arlington-native’s millennial anthem is country music’s answer to Icona Pop’s “I Love It.”