BEST COUNTRY The Best Country Music on Bandcamp: March 2023 By Ben Salmon · April 04, 2023

March was a busy month for country and country-ish releases on Bandcamp, with many good ones to choose from when paring down this list. But here are our favorites, including artists from Australia, Canada, Eswatini, New Zealand, and across the United States making traditional twang, adventurous bluegrass, heartfelt Americana, and points between and beyond. Enjoy! 

Matt Joe Glow
Between Tonight & Tomorrow

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), T-Shirt/Apparel, Poster/Print, Vinyl LP

Dunedin, New Zealand is well-known for its history of guitar-happy pop rock bands, but it’s also the hometown of Matt Joe Gow, a singer-songwriter with a patient approach to roots music. Between Tonight & Tomorrow is his fourth full-length album, and its unfussy production style compliments Gow’s songs, which are more Southern rock than Southern hemisphere, with heavy doses of blues, soul, and gospel music stirred into the mix.

Charlotte Le Lievre
Songs from the Barrier Line

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

There is a deep sense of sadness that permeates Songs from the Barrier Line, the new album from Australian singer-songwriter Charlotte Le Lievre. And with good reason: Le Lievre made these songs in memory of her mother, and as an ode to her own grief. Against a backdrop of slow-burning country, folk, bluegrass, and Western swing, she sings of blowing winds, crackling fires, silver mines, picket lines, and souls intertwined, evocatively telling the story of her life, her home land and her mom’s final weeks. It’s as sweet as it is sad, and as sad as it is sweet.

Dylan Earl
I Saw the Arkansas

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette

Among the artists rising up from the fertile twang-fields of Northwest Arkansas, Dylan Earl might just make the music that goes down smoothest. The Fayetteville-based singer-songwriter’s tunes vividly evoke the classic country of the 1960s and ‘70s, thanks largely to Earl’s velvety baritone voice and a heaping helping of pedal steel perfection courtesy of Hamilton Belk. On I Saw the Arkansas, he’s got road-weary ramblers, raucous honky-tonkers, stone-washed Southern soul, and timeless tear-in-my-beer ballads, all done with impressive nuance and attention to detail.

Drayton Farley
Twenty on High

Let’s get this out of the way: Drayton Farley is from Alabama, and so is Jason Isbell. Twenty on High was produced by Sadler Vaden, guitarist in Isbell’s band the 400 Unit. And the two—Farley and Isbell—are more or less voice twins. It’s impossible to miss, much less ignore. But let’s also be clear about the fact that Drayton Farley is one heck of a songwriter. Evidence of that can be found all over his new album, which spills over with pitch-perfect Americana songs built from solid storytelling, emotional honesty, and memorable melodies, played by a skilled band and, thanks to Vaden, perfectly captured.

Doug Paisley
Say What You Like

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

The ever-dependable Doug Paisley returns with yet another album of low-key country-folk songs built around feelings of love, loss, frustration, and regret. On Say What You Like—his first full-length since 2018’s Starter Homethe veteran Canadian singer-songwriter saunters through subdued country-funk, doleful folk. and understated honky-tonk, imbuing his songs with softly glowing melodies and an unmistakable sense of melancholy every step of the way.

Nickel Creek

Friends and bandmates since they were school children, the three members of Nickel Creek got so busy with other projects and real life that nine years have flown by since their last album, 2014’s A Dotted Line. At 18 tracks and 60 minutes long, Celebrants is a bountiful showcase of both the trio’s eye-popping technical skills and the extraordinary potential of their creative union, which finds them sounding like a bluegrass band being drawn and quartered—in a good way—by pop, folk rock, prog, and classical music. 

Michael Cleveland
Lovin’ of the Game

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

To get a sense for the stature of fiddler Michael Cleveland within the bluegrass world, just scan the list of guests on his new album Lovin’ of the Game: Vince Gill, Billy Strings, Dan Tyminski, Béla Fleck, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglasbasically a who’s who of world-class pickers. Together, they bring 12 bluegrass tracks to life, and the centerpiece is Cleveland, whose fiddling is athletic, expressive, and often awe-inspiring. The New York Times recently called him “one of modern bluegrass’s most compelling musicians” and this album is Exhibit A.

Bart Weilburg
Wild Strings

Oklahoma guitar wizard Bart Weilburg makes no bones about his style: “retro revivalist,” he says, “bringing the old sound to the present day.” Few are more qualified to do such a thing. Weilburg’s been playing country guitar since the 1980s, most recently with Wayne “The Train” Hancock, and Wild Strings features his originals, which bounce from honky-tonk, rockabilly, and Texas boogie to surf pop and that sweet, sweet Buckaroo-style Bakersfield sound. If all that isn’t enough for you, legendary guitarist Redd Volkaert plays all over the album, too. Extra sauce!

Dusty & Stones
“This Time”

Best Country gravitates toward full-length albums, and “This Time” is a single track. But it’s not every month that we get a chance to highlight a modern country duo from Eswatini, a small nation in Southern Africa. Dusty & Stones is Gazi “Dusty” Simelane and Linda “Stones” Msibi, a pair of singer-songwriters from the Shiselweni region of Eswatini who clearly have studied the music of tradition-minded country artists like Dwight Yoakam, Alan Jackson, and Brad Paisley. From the cowboy hats and denim to the live-wire guitars and big, bright melodies, Dusty & Stones have the look and sound of Nashville down.

Say ZuZu
No Time To Lose

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Back in the late-’90s heyday of alt-country, Say ZuZu felt like a band that was always on the cusp of busting out into the big time. That never quite happened, however, and they shut ‘er down in the early 2000s. No Time To Lose is the group’s first album in 21 years, and it’s an excellent reminder of what these New Englanders do well: tuneful Americana that jangles, twangs, and rocks in equal measure, like a cross between genre giants Son Volt and The Jayhawks. “After years apart,” the Bandcamp page says, “we really looked to squeeze as much enjoyment out of making music together again.” And ain’t that what it’s all about?

Jesco Payne & the Painkillers
Lonesome Tears

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Cassette, T-Shirt/Shirt

It’s a long way from Portland, Oregon to the hills of Eastern Kentucky, but Jesco Payne’s westward relocation certainly hasn’t dulled the influence of his home state. Like his fellow Appalachian Tyler Childers, Payne’s songs are deeply rooted in the honky-tonk tradition, even as he incorporates the sounds of old-time and gospel music and the sensibilities of outlaw country and punk. (Here’s a special shout-out to Lightnin’ Luke’s indispensable fiddle work.) Lonesome Tears is proof that you can take Jesco Payne out of Kentucky, but you can’t take the Kentucky out of Jesco Payne.

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