1. “Promise Land” – Sinners & Saints. Big-hearted, foot-stompin’, smile-inducing alt-country complete with stand-up bass, fiddle, and harmonica. The vocals are infused with a sweet, earnest quality that is not usually found in this type of music. Remember when the Avett Brothers were a ramshackle, upstart duo that could make you holler and cry? It’s like that. Great stuff.
2. “Let You Be” – Gian Luca & the Oak. Italy by way of London? You’d never know it from this thrilling slice of upbeat, major-key Americana. A vivid fiddle and enthusiastic stand-up bass create the frame for joyous harmonica and Luca’s low vocals. This is just a ton of fun.
3. “Evergreen” – Builder of the House. This warm, open, happy folk tune plays like an inversion of Fleet Foxes (all love to the FF): the harmonies expand the soaring reach of the song instead of getting close in, and the arrangement is spacious. There’s room to sit with this, to hear every instrument and to clap along. If you’re into Lord Huron, this will be immediately interesting.
4. “Bait My Soul” – James AM Downes. Somewhere between twinkly folk music and bouncy indie-pop lands this lovely, dreamy track. The arrangement here is tight and engaging, wrapping me in a mood instantly.
5. “Behold” – J. Alan Schneider. Resonant, bass-heavy acoustic guitar picking with more than a bit of Appalachian melodic influence opens this track in a powerful way. Schneider’s whispery voice is a high tenor that contrasts nicely against the low end of the guitar, and that tension drives this emotionally-charged song.
6. “Sundial” – Kazyak. Good-natured full-band folk that recalls Lord Huron in its commitments to be fully involved in acoustic folk music but also fully involved in being poppy and fun. The song passes by easily, leaving me with a grin and good vibe.
7. “Falling South” – Lee Watson. If you’re up for a slice of Laurel Canyon/West Coast Country, Lee Watson has a perfectly-turned tune in the style for you: creaky vocals, cooed background vox, weeping pedal steel, and a walking-speed acoustic guitar strum.
8. “Slow Sip of Whiskey” – Eric Barnett. A deep voice and a fingerpicked guitar layered with metaphors aplenty: fans of David Ramirez will rejoice over Barnett’s back-porch country-folk work here.
9. “The Birds and You” – Miles Horn. Fans of indie-soul like the Antlers will find much to love in this stripped-back, romantic, bluesy ballad. The vocal performance here is strong and clear.
10. “The Way to You” – Elliot Porter. Calls to mind Brett Dennen and Passenger, emotional acoustic songwriters who ride the line between folk and adult alternative. Porter’s chorus and big outro are both catchy and impeccably arranged for maximum effect.
11. “Comfortable” – The Washboard Abs. A perfect companion for a rainy day, this loping, downtempo acoustic pop tune has all of the hazy, slackery spirit of lo-fi recording without actually sounding fuzzed out (which I count as a total benefit in this case).
12. “Heartbeat” – Almond&Olive. It’s hard for me to get tired of fingerpicking and close harmonies. This beautiful, relaxing tune comes off like a more folk-oriented version of The Weepies, which is always a good thing. I love the horn inclusion at the end.
13. “If Heaven” – Mystery Loves Company. Ostensibly a song about what the songwriter doesn’t want to see in heaven, the song ends up being a statement of what the band believes is vital and good in the world. The acoustic pop song structure is accompanied by a lovely cello performance.