I never feel ready for summer to end, but once fall has arrived - leaves changing, brisk cool air, and clear blue skies - I’m all in. I’ve actually come to realize October is one of my favorite months. Much like people and their affinity to start listening to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, I feel this compulsion to listen to certain albums as soon as October 1st rolls around. So park yourself on the couch with a blanket and a warm cup of tea and take a listen to a few below. I promise they won’t disappoint.
Alison Krauss + Union Station
Unlike the following albums, I have been listening to this one since I was a little girl. I actually got to see Alison Krauss & Union Station live when I was about 12 and to this day it is still one of the best concerts I have ever been to. With world class musicians playing the fiddle, banjo, and dobro, and Krauss’ effortless vocals, it doesn’t get much better. I remember a lot of car rides through western Maryland and Virginia listening to this album and the warmth of the instruments and her voice always makes me think of the rolling hills of Maryland covered in the colors of fall.
Native Dreamer Kin
ALL THE HARMONIES. That’s what killed me the first time I heard these three sisters. The strong yet effortless nature of their voices paired with gorgeous lyrics is mesmerizing. Outside of the a amazing music, the lyrics are captivating - full of loss and longing. Those topics resonate heavily with me during this season where things are slowly yet beautifully dying.
This album starts off perfectly with “Poor Man’s Son” which first, starts off a cappella and second, incorporates the African American spiritual, “Down in the River to Pray" perfectly accenting Gundersen's greatest asset, his voice. The rest of the album fluctuates between slower ballads drowning in sorrow of lost love and just slightly upbeat folk songs reminiscing and moving on from that love lost. While most of the album is driven by acoustic guitar and Gundersen's voice, several songs also incorporate violin and harmonies by his sister, Abby Gundersen, which adds a richness and warmth, making it the perfect album for fall.
This Empty Northern Hemisphere
Gregory Alan Isakov
Another acoustically driven album, Gregory Alan Isokov’s deep sultry voice and beautiful story telling separates this one from the rest. It’s not as sad and depressing lyrically compared to the others. Instead, each song is rather hopeful and upbeat, offering a little vignette of a story through elaborately metaphors and imagery. Adding a little slide guitar, some drums, and a bit of fiddle, and it’s a magical album from start to finish.
Penny & Sparrow
When my brother got back from a fall tour with Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Penny & Sparrow, he handed me this CD. I don’t think he ever thought it would end up being one of my favorite albums. Kyle & Andy’s amazing harmonies and guitar driven songs are gut-wrenchingly beautiful on this album. It’s definitely not a cheery one - most songs tackle betrayal, lost love, and being left behind - but it’s that combination that once again so perfectly accompanies this change of season when everything that was alive is slowly and beautifully dying away.
I’ve saved the best for last. I could listen to this album all the time, but it seems most appropriate during October. I first heard Ruston Kelly when I went to see Joseph in concert last fall, and I immediately fell in love. Tackling themes of loss, regret, and moving on, his rough deep voice accompanied by guitar and harmonica is heaven. From the gut-wrenching lyrics, his voice, and the roughly recorded monologues interspersed throughout, the whole album is perfectly raw. I always feel like I need to have a whiskey in hand while listening, which makes me love it even more.
I would encourage you to listen to each of these albums individually. While they definitely have common themes lyrically and musically, they each bring something different to the table. However, if you just want a snippet of each, I've created a special playlist with some of my favorites. Perfect for car rides on back roads at dusk.
I would also love to know what you all think. Any albums I should add to my October list?