Phoebe Hunt’s sparse and vulnerable new album, Nothing Else Matters (2023), feels like an exercise in stripping things away—peeling back all the layers to get to the heart of who and what she really is. After years of writing, recording, and touring as a band member and bandleader, her latest recording finds her as a woman standing alone, just her voice and her fiddle. In that empty space left behind, Nothing Else Matters is an album that asks many questions, the most central being, “Is this enough? Am I enough?”
Whereas the fiddle and voice are often the final elements, or icing on the cake of a full band recording, this project explores what it sounds like when the fiddle and vocals represent the whole cake. Drawing from 30 years spent studying the violin/fiddle, Hunt interweaves her classical upbringing with Appalachian Old Time, Texas Swing, and a maturity of songwriting that creates an unfiltered, raw expression dripping with palpable vulnerability.“With a twang in her voice and her trademark energetic fiddling, Texas singer-songwriter Phoebe Hunt tells the story of a woman who is determined to make her own way in the world.”
When he’s not on the road — and these days, he’s definitely not on the road — Max Gomez splits his time between his beloved hometown of Taos, New Mexico, and Los Angeles. He received critical acclaim upon the release of his debut album Rule The World (2013, New West Records), and his subsequent EP, Me and Joe (2017, Brigadoon Records), contained a freshly minted classic, “Make It Me,” which gained over two million listeners on Spotify alone.
Today, Gomez is focused on finishing his second album amid a touring hiatus imposed by the worldwide pandemic. But waiting to release one song in particular seemed an impossibility. A traditional folk song first recorded in the thirties, “He Was a Friend of Mine” has been covered by many legendary artists, including Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and The Byrds. Gomez’s version features newly written lyrics that comment on historical and contemporary racial and social injustice, with powerful lines like “for not to kill a man, to take the righteous stand, now, I will take a knee.”
And as a budding performer, Max apprenticed in the rarefied musical micro-climate of northern New Mexico, where troubadours like Michael Martin Murphey and Ray Wylie Hubbard helped foster a Western folk sound both cosmic and cowboy. Gomez has assumed stewardship of that lineage by producing the Red River Folk Festival, a boutique event held annually in late September in the musical mountain village of Red River, NM.
Judging by the company he keeps, Gomez is positioned to emerge as a prominent voice of Americana’s next generation. He has shared billing on hundreds of stages with stalwarts of the genre like Shawn Mullins, James McMurtry, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Patty Griffin, and John Hiatt. His classic-and-contemporary reading of “He Was a Friend of Mine” proves the point.View Map