And it’s sort of a vague one.
Today I’m going to suggest that you give the gift of local music. The thing is, if you’re one of my many readers who does not live in West Virginia, then you’ll have to go out and find it in your own area. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
And I have to state upfront that this is in no way a comprehensive list of local releases. In fact, I’m limiting myself to five recent releases that I know can be bought in a physical format. If you are, or know, a local musical artist or group, please use the comments below to bring them to my readers…and my…attention.
I have been cranking out around a thousand words every day all month long on this Gift Guide, and my brain is crying out for a much-needed rest, so if I have featured your music on Radio Free Charleston but don’t mention it below, do not take it as a snub. It’s a combination of fatigue, old age and a lack of ominpotence.
Don’t let that dissuade you from seeking out new music by local and independent artists whose music can brighten the lives of the people on your holiday shopping list. The comments are open for you to remind me how cool your music is.
Before we get into the five artists I’ve chosen to spotlight, I want to mention that several local record shops have dedicated local music sections to help you find the perfect local musical gift for the folks on your list.
Locally, that means you can go to Budget Tapes & Records or Sullivan’s Records in Charleston, Orbit’s in Barboursville, Cheap Thrills in Princeton or any of the other cool record shops in our state. They will be glad to assist you, and might even be able to let you sample some of the music.
You can also sample local music on Radio Free Charleston, heard every Tuesday (with replays all week) on our sister internet radio station, The AIR. Each week I post the playlist for our new show in this blog, and when possible, that playlist will have live links to the artist’s websites.
Below you’ll see five recent releases by local artists that can be bought in a physical form. If your gift-getter prefers digital downloads, then that opens up a whole world of music via Bandcamp and other websites that you’ll find in those playlists. Please note, I’m keeping these as short as possible because I’m about to fall asleep. It’s been a long month.
Just a couple of months ago, my old friend, Brian, released a new collection of songs spanning his 45 years making music. Dear Boy is available on CD and Vinyl, and I played just about every track from it on Radio Free Charleston. Back in the 80s, Brian was the king of Charleston rock, and this collection from his archives shows off his impressive talent.
You’ll get vintage tracks by Brian Diller & The Ride, recorded in the Charleston area, songs he composed while living in Nashville, and more great tunes from across his career.
You can also by these songs, and several more at Brian’s Bandcamp Page.
Available in different formats and packages from the Hello June online store
One of the most anticipated WV music releases of the year, Artifacts comes five years after the debut album by Hello June, and showcases the songwriting and voice of Sar Rudy, who is rightfully one of the most acclaimed artists to come out of the Mountain State in some time.
With an sound that’s hard to describe, Hello June manages to rock too hard to be pure Americana. The lyrics are intimate, articulate and intelligent, and Rudy’s voice is an exquiste instrument.
And that’s a sentence I never expected to write in this blog.
Artifacts is bound to wind up on a lot of “best of the year” lists.
Available on CD from his Bandcamp page
Todd Burge is one of the most prolific singer/songwriters in the state, and Seed is his fifteenth solo album.
Just released less than a month ago, Seed is, well…how about I let Todd describe it?
These songs seemed to be “handed to me” like little gifts from various sources. A few were challenges from The Song Colony*, an open group of writers who meet each month in Marietta Ohio at The Stage Door. At the end of each session, we spontaneously pick one word to use as a jumping off point for a song. We call it the “Quick and Dirty”. The assignment is to spend one hour or less on a song, and the goal is to write whatever comes to mind, without the pressure of feeling it should be precious, or a “masterpiece”. We are simply working the songwriting muscle, and as a result, happy accidents occasionally occur. Hundreds of songs have come out of this group using this method.
Other songs from Seed are playful challenges from friends. Pig came from my late friend Mark Scohy saying to me, “there aren’t enough songs about bacon”. Weed and Keep Your Clover Bloomin’ came to me while I was doing yard work, and a couple others came from words I saw in a book called 300 Drawing Prompts.
Seed is another reliably terrific collection of Todd’s songs, delivered with his pleasing voice and trademark wit.
Available on CD from their Bandcamp page
Speaking of Todd Burge, when I first met him back in 1989, he was in the legendary Morgantown band, 63 Eyes.
This is a remixed version of an album that almost never was. Here’s the story…
Gravel was originally planned for vinyl release back in ’88, but for various reasons, it only made it to a limited run cassette. In 2023, the album was completely remixed by Mark Poole at Zone 8 Recording.
Unlike Todd’s singer/songwriter work, Gravel shows a heavy punk influence and the end result is sort of a precursor to the Grunge that was bubbling up in the Northwest around the same time.
Folks might call it “alternative,” but it rocks and sounds great regardless of labels. Recommended for fans of Nirvana, Wall of Voodoo, and XTC.
That Grand Old Feeling
Available in multiple formats and packages from William Matheny’s online store
William Matheny is a West Virginia-based singer-songwriter whose brand of Americana music is firmly steeped in the Appalachian storytelling tradition. This latest release was written and recorded before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That Grand, Old Feeling is Matheny’s most expansive work yet, taking narrative inspiration from the eclectic characters who inhabit dive motels and roadside haunts and sonic cues from the work of classic American rock’n’roll artists like Jason Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co. and Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.
Matheny’s 2017 album Strange Constellations was a critical darling, drawing praise from outlets including NPR Music, PopMatters, and American Songwriter. That Grand Old Feeling tops it and shows an exponential growth in one of our most striking songwriters.
Please keep in mind that dozens, if not hundreds, of other West Virginia musicians released great new music this year, and if you want to tell the world about it, please use the comments below. Also, you can always give the gift of live music by giving someone the experience of going out to a performance by a local artists.
You can hear all the musicians listed here in regular rotation on Radio Free Charleston, and if you tell me about a great new band in the comments, I’ll probably play their music too.