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You Gotta Hear This: New Music From John Cowan, Jason Carter & Michael Cleveland, & More

May 31, 2024

You Gotta Hear This: New Music From John Cowan, Jason Carter & Michael Cleveland, & More

To close the month of May, we have an absolutely stacked round up of premieres this week!

It’s lovely any time natural and organic themes twist their way through our batches of premiere. This week, it certainly seems like cutting-edge bluegrass is front and center, with new tracks and videos from John Cowan, Jason Carter & Michael Cleveland, and husband-and-wife duo, Benson.

Plus, we have a trio of songs about touring, coming and going, leaving and returning – Rob Baird asking his listeners to “Hold Tight” ’til his return, Evan Boyer longs for home and hearth in a song for his wife, “Home to You,” and Rose Gerber pays tribute to a vagabond period in her own life with “Off to See America.”

Finally, don’t miss a danceable rockabilly number, “If I Didn’t Have You,” from Matt Hillyer and roots duo Native Harrow bring us a new music video for “Borrowing Time.” It’s a packed premiere round up this week and You Gotta Hear This!

John Cowan, “Fiction”

Artist: John Cowan
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Song: “Fiction”
Album: Fiction
Release Date: June 7, 2024 (single); Fall 2024 (album)
Label: True Lonesome Records

In Their Words: “The genesis of the song is that Eddie [Sanders] and I had sat down to write a song for this new recording that eventually was titled ‘Fiction.’ I have been a voracious reader my whole adult life. I was discussing with Eddie the problem of living in a world at this time, which is confounding, scary, and frustrating. My expansive bookcase is loaded with non-fiction books. I had just said to him that I can hardly stand to pick up these two new books I’d bought, ’cause I didn’t feel like I needed any more affirmation about the state of our country and the world. What I needed was an escape to a place of commonality with the people I’ve encountered and my loved ones. I think we did a good job on it and that’s all I know for now except, I always believe in hope and grace.” – John Cowan

Jason Carter & Michael Cleveland, “Give It Away”

Artist: Jason Carter & Michael Cleveland
Hometown: Floyd, Kentucky, now living in Hendersonville, Tennessee (Jason); Charlestown, Indiana (Michael)
Song: “Give It Away”
Release Date: May 8, 2024
Label: Fiddle Man Records

In Their Words: “I feel that the world we live in is a beautiful place, but it takes all of us to make that world. Every time I hear this song it brings a smile to my face, thinking of the day we recorded it. The room was filled with friends making music and the joy that was shared between us really comes through in the recording. This song was written by two of my favorite fiddlers, Tim O’Brien and Matt Combs, and that was another thing that made me feel like it was right for Michael and I to record it.

“Every time I’ve been around Sam Bush, I feel the love he puts out into the world and I thought he’d be the perfect person to sing this song with. I feel the same way about Michael, it’s always such a joyful experience to get to play or even hang out with him. With that said, ‘Give It Away’ sets the tone for the entire record, I hope you enjoy it.” – Jason Carter

“‘Give It Away’ is a hard driving bluegrass song in the key of B, except this time nobody leaves or dies. Instead, it reinforces the valuable lesson that if you want to ever find love, you have to learn to give it away. I would like to thank Bryan Sutton, Cory Walker, Alan Bartram, and Sam Bush for creating one of the most grooving tracks I’ve ever been a part of, they really made this song come to life. This song was a natural for twin fiddles, and Jason and Sam’s vocals are absolutely incredible.” – Michael Cleveland

Rob Baird, “Hold Tight”

Artist: Rob Baird
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Song: “Hold Tight”
Album: Burning In the Stars
Release Date: June 21, 2024
Label: Hard Luck Recording Company

In Their Words: “Early on in my career, I spent a lot of time in a van, touring all over God’s green earth. This song, ‘Hold Tight,’ is a reflection of those times. It’s about the chaotic feeling of driving through the night to get back home to one who’s been waiting for you. I wanted that feeling of desperation and determination to build every second of this song. Hold tight and hold on for just a few more hours.” – Rob Baird

Track Credits:
Produced by Brian Douglass Phillips.
Jacob Hildebrand – Electric guitar, slide guitar
Z Lynch – Bass guitar
Brian Douglas Phillips – Pedal steel, background vocals
Fred Mandujano – Drums, percussion
Sean Giddings – Organ

Benson, “Donner Pass”

Artist: Benson
Hometown: Boiling Springs, South Carolina
Song: “Donner Pass”
Release Date: May 31, 2024
Label: Mountain Home Music Company

In Their Words:“‘Donner Pass’ is a tune I wrote while traveling with IIIrd Tyme Out. We were heading back east after a west coast string of gigs and, with a little time to kill, decided to stop in Reno, Nevada. We parked in the same general area where the Donner Party had been trapped over the winter, so this felt like a great song title for a minor-key melody. I had been working on the tune itself for a few days as we played out our gigs in California, but the original cell phone demo was recorded at Donner Pass where we parked overnight before driving into town.” – Wayne Benson

“This is one of my favorite tunes that Wayne has written. It feels dark, which is appropriate considering the title and location that it’s written about. The track moves a lot dynamically and I always enjoy that — I love taking a fairly simple melody and working with it to create different moods.” – Kristin Scott Benson

Track Credits:
Wayne Benson – Mandolin
Kristin Scott Benson – Banjo
Cody Kilby – Acoustic Guitar
Tony Creasman – Drums
Kevin McKinnon – Bass

Evan Boyer, “Home to You”

Artist: Evan Boyer
Hometown: Somers, Connecticut originally; Dallas, Texas since 2010
Song: “Home to You”
Album: The Devil in Me
Release Date: June 7, 2024 (album)
Label: Medicine for Mary Records

In Their Words: “‘Home to You’ is a special song to me for a few reasons. First, the writing – it was the first song I really wrote for my wife. I’ve had others kind of about us or about our relationship, but I had never written one that focused on the fact that she’s my rock. Another is the production and the players I have on this track. Jenee on fiddle absolutely blew me away. Tim wrote that solo on the floor and then was able to perfectly replicate it two other times so that we could layer it three times. It’s stuff like that that’ll keep me making records for as long as I can.” – Evan Boyer

Track Credits:
Lyrics and music by Evan Boyer.
Produced by Bradley Prakope.
Recorded at The Panhandle House, Denton, Texas.
Evan Boyer – Vocals, acoustic guitar
Timothy Allen – Electric Guitar
Nate Coon – Drums
Bob Parr – Bass
Jenee Fleenor – Fiddle
Drew Harakal – B3 organ

Native Harrow, “Borrowing Time”

Artist: Native Harrow
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Song: “Borrowing Time”
Album: Divided Kind
Release Date: September 13, 2024
Label: Different Time Records

In Their Words: “This is one of those songs that was written in a few minutes, recorded in an afternoon, and came together like it was always a song. The rhythm signifies a lazy, hazy walk through the fields, lost in thoughts and daydreams. It is loose and meanders its way with pedal steel swirls (Joe Harvey-Whyte) and a single snare drum played with brushes while the bass thumps its way along the dusty trail. I go on daily walks to clear my head and to be in nature. I never want them to end and am always a little melancholy when they do and I have to return to my to-do list. I feel things very deeply and in trying times it often feels like life is a giant wheel rolling down a road and I am either being plowed over by it or chasing to keep up and it doesn’t pay any mind to my own struggles. In writing this song I realized that maybe being lost is better than having it all figured out and we’re all just borrowing time.” – Devin Tuel

“We recorded ‘Borrowing Time’ on a hot, dry day last summer (2023), setting up in the living room, with the windows wide open to take in the little bit of breeze that snuck in over the hills that afternoon. We started with Devin’s vocal and guitar and my Hofner Beatles bass (no click track, of course), sitting a foot away from each other. So close in fact, that you can hear the faint clack of my pick on the flat-wound bass strings bleeding into the vocal track. Next, we added a simple snare drum with brushes (myself) and shaker (Devin), again around the same mic. Finally, we added the electric guitar overdub, my black Gretsch hollowbody guitar through our old Fender amp, with its drippy reverb and dense tremolo, before sending the track up to our buddy Joe Harvey-Whyte in London where he added his cosmic outer space pedal steel. Sometimes we like to spend weeks working on a track, adding as many layers as it needs, and sometimes a finished song (as in the case of ‘Borrowing Time’) comes together in a single afternoon. Either way, we’ll take them as they come.” – Stephen Harms

Video Credits: Photography by Rosie Lord.
Edited by Devin Tuel & Stephen Harms.

Matt Hillyer, “If I Didn’t Have You”

Artist: Matt Hillyer
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Song: “If I Didn’t Have You”
Album: Bright Skyline
Release Date: June 7, 2024 (single); June 21, 2024 (album)
Label: State Fair Records

In Their Words: “I got my start playing rockabilly music. I’ve enjoyed playing many different styles of roots music over the years, but I always seem to gravitate back to that rockabilly swing. It just feels good and puts a smile on my face. It’s even better being able to have some great players and even better friends on it: Heather Stalling on fiddle, Kevin Smith on bass, Lloyd Maines on steel guitar, and Arjuna Contreras on drums. The song itself is a love song, and in my opinion, you can’t have enough of those. I was thinking about my wife when I wrote it. I was imagining a way to tell her how lost I’d be if I didn’t have her in my life.” – Matt Hillyer

Rose Gerber, “Off to See America”

Artist: Rose Gerber
Hometown: Portland
Song: “Off to See America”
Album: Untraveled Highway EP
Release Date: July 5, 2024

In Their Words: “When I was 17, I set out on a road trip that had no planned end. I was a high school drop-out running from a broken home and thought the romance of the road would save me. You can’t run from life though and the road wears you down. After thumbing around, riding freight trains and some lean times, I finally threw in the towel; but can’t say I regret a minute of it. This song is a tribute to that time of my life.” – Rose Gerber

Video Credits: Starring Mary Krantz and Just Clark.
Directed By Benjamin Olsen.

Photo Credit: John Cowan by Madison Thorne; Jason Carter & Michael Cleveland by Sam Wiseman.

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You Gotta Hear This: New Music From John Cowan, Jason Carter & Michael Cleveland, & More
You Gotta Hear This: New Music From John Cowan, Jason Carter & Michael Cleveland, & More