1. Sarah Jarosz – Undercurrent
“Green lights and open roads and skies of endless blue/That’s the feeling I get when I’m with you,” Jarosz sings on “Green Lights,” of hearing a friendly voice in the darkness. Jarosz has such a voice. There is something comfortable and familiar about it on this collection of folk- and bluegrass-inspired tunes, her fourth on Sugar Hill Records. It’s a mellow production, arpeggiating acoustic guitars supported by resonant upright bass, strings and pedals steel rising and falling in and out of the melodies. Listen as Jarosz breathes, “Some days feel so heavy, they come when I’m not quite ready,” the opening lines to “Comin’ Undone.” You can hear her releasing the stress she’s singing about. There’s a subdued luster to these songs. You can look forward to hearing them again.
2. Luke Bell – Luke Bell
I’ve only gotten an abbreviated preview of Bell’s debut album, but what’s not to like about a honky-tonkin’ former ranch hand with a sense of humor and baritone that doesn’t sound forced or pitch-corrected? “Where Ya Been” and “Sometimes” are enough to make me want to hear the rest.