BEST COUNTRY The Best Country Music on Bandcamp, March 2024 By Ben Salmon · April 03, 2024

In two and a quarter years of putting together the Best Country Music on Bandcamp, there has never been a month with more good-or-better releases than March of 2024. It was a chore to pare the list down to the cream of the crop! Below, you’ll find various strains of country, folk, bluegrass and more, with roots stretching from New Orleans to the Canadian Prairies and from Juneau, Alaska to London, England. Enjoy!

Charlie Parr
Little Sun

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

For a couple of decades, Charlie Parr has been, more or less, a small operation, recording no-frills country-blues music, releasing it via tiny independent labels, and touring all over the country DIY-style before returning to his hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. Little Sun isn’t exactly his big-budget heel turn, but it does find Parr indulging in some relative luxuries: full-band arrangements (courtesy of instrumental wizards like guitarist Marisa Anderson and bassist Victor Krummenacher), a renowned producer (Tucker Martine at Portland’s Flora Recording studio), and—for the first time in Parr’s career—a session where the first take didn’t necessarily have to be the only take. But don’t worry: Those changes have done nothing to sap Parr’s songs of their raw immediacy, which still comes through loud and clear even if their edges are a little less rough.

Hurray for the Riff Raff
The Past is Still Alive

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

Alynda Segarra’s body of work under the name Hurray for the Riff Raff is both expansive and cohesive at the same time—no easy task! For a decade and a half, the New Orleans-based singer-songwriter has drawn deeply from their heritage and experiences, using very specific personal inspirations as jumping-off points for their albums. With that in mind, The Past is Still Alive is like a grainy but riveting clip show, setting vivid stories from Segarra’s past against what might be their steadiest, most accessible take on folk-rock yet.

Josh Fortenbery
No Such Thing As Forever

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

“An existential crisis set to music.” This is how Josh Fortenbery describes his debut album No Such Thing As Forever, a 12-track collection of tunes that live somewhere near the intersection of folk storytelling, country angst, and bluegrass instrumentation. Recorded in Fortenbery’s adopted hometown of Juneau, Alaska, the album feels sonically intimate, which only enhances the mood of the lyrics, which are self-reflective and framed by the isolation, uncertainty, and frustration of life in our pandemic times. It’s like the guy is spilling his guts just to you.

Sierra Ferrell
Trail Of Flowers

Sierra Ferrell is either already a big deal or she’s going to be soon, depending on your perspective. Either way, she’s rising fast, and this summer, she’s going to play amphitheaters, arenas, and stadiums while opening for Zach Bryan and Mitski. When she does, those huge audiences will be treated to a singer-songwriter whose old-time sound—vintage blues and jazz, ragtime, fiddle tunes, and so on—clearly appeals to an ever-widening swath of 21st-century people. At the center of this phenomenon sits Ferrell, a charismatic performer with a compelling voice and a quiver full of distinctive songs who’s doing it her own way. Listening to her fourth album, Trail of Flowers, is like sitting on the launch pad, listening to the countdown approach blast off.

Corb Lund
El Viejo

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

When legendary songwriter Ian Tyson passed away a couple of years ago, he left a huge hole in the musical fabric of the Canadian Prairies. Corb Lund might not be able to fill that hole himself, but he’s as equipped as anyone to try. The veteran Alberta-based artist has spent the past three decades pumping out terrific country music, cowboy songs, and honky-tonkin’ fun, and El Viejo—dedicated to his old pal Tyson—is a worthy addition to the catalog. Well-stocked with songs about gamblers, drunks, fighters, and compadres, it’s all acoustic and recorded in Lund’s living room, as he says, “with no adults present.”

Nick Harley
Leave No Trace

Merch for this release:
Cassette

This new album from Nashville singer-songwriter Nick Harley seems to shapeshift over its brief 25-minute running time. At first, Harley sounds like a home-recording enthusiast with a particular interest in Appalachian music and Neil Young at his folkiest. Then about halfway through Leave No Trace, he starts to sound more like the weird, wobbly early days of Modest Mouse. Turns out, Harley can do both pretty well, and he knows how to bring them together in a way that works, even on what amounts to a collection of imperfect song sketches captured in low fidelity. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.

Aoife O’Donovan
All My Friends

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

At a time when the rights of American women are under attack, Aoife O’Donovan’s outstanding new album draws inspiration from the passage of the 19th amendment and the speeches and letters of suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt. On All My Friends, O’Donovan extols the power of voting and explores the past, present, and future of the role women play in American democracy, all set against a gorgeous backdrop of bluegrass-y folk music that feels as lush and spacious as a symphony. O’Donovan is not known as a political songwriter, but as we hurtle toward Election Day in America, she has crafted a timely and meaningful work.

Sam Outlaw
Terra Cotta

There are at least three ways you know Sam Outlaw makes country music: 1. That name! 2. The ever-present cowboy hat. 3. The guy’s music…sort of. While there’s no question Outlaw’s songs are rooted in country traditions, Terra Cotta also showcases his penchant for smooth pop sounds that recall James Taylor (“Ways to Go”), the 1975 (“Someone Quite Like You”), and Kacey Musgraves (the title track). While there’s plenty of twang here to merit inclusion on this list, Outlaw’s strength is melody, melody, melody, no matter its stylistic surroundings.

The Hanging Stars
On A Golden Shore

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

When people talk about The Hanging Stars, they use words like “cosmic” and “psychedelic” in front of words like “country” and “Americana.” None of those descriptors are inaccurate; for five records now, the London-based band has been exploring the out-there edges of the country universe. But to these ears, On A Golden Shore is, more precisely, the answer to this question: “What if Scottish pop perfectos Teenage Fanclub spent a whole album leaning into their twangiest impulses?” Here, swooping pedal steel guitar and faded melancholy gently entwine with sunny melodies and honeyed vocal harmonies—a warm blanket of sound for a cold, cold world.

Waxahatchee
Tigers Blood

Yes, like just about everyone else on the planet, we here at Best Country Music on Bandcamp love the new album of easygoing, endlessly breezy folk-rock from Kansas City’s Katie Crutchfield. You don’t need to read more words on it, probably… Just go listen and soak in the sounds of a songwriter at the top of her game.

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