Welcome to Playlists, a series where we turn over the reigns to artists to curate the next big playlist
Sadness is the connective tissue of the human existence. Contentment and glee are important, too, but it is pain, heartache and loss that remind us we are truly alive, shells walking this earth in search of hope, love and freedom. “In lieu of any flowers, try to give your love away,” prompts Kellen of Troy, formerly fiddle player of Apache Relay, on the titular cut to his solo debut album, Posthumous Release. That urgency and suffering is engraved throughout the record (but more on that later), a common characteristic of much of Americana, folk and country music.
Debuting exclusively on B-Sides & Badlands, Kellen Wenrich compiles a collection of his favorite sad songs by good friends, or at the very least, fellow artists with whom he’s shared stages. He unearths a standout cut by Ray Price, alongside emotional renderings by Brent Cobb, Jenny Lewis, The Devil Makes Three, Dawes and The Wild Feathers, among many others.
Kellen of Troy’s Posthumous Release drops February 16 on Allura Sound.
Below, Wenrich walks us through his picks, revealing the personal connection and adoration for each.
“Selfish Kind of Love” by Kellen of Troy (Posthumous Release)
Hate this guy, love this tune.
“Diggin’ Holes by Brent Cobb (Shine On Rainy Day)
I had the pleasure of playing in Brent’s band for a few shows last winter, including a hometown supporting slot for Chris Stapleton. Brent’s got a bunch of great tunes, but I wasn’t sure this was one of them at first; I couldn’t stomach the opening verse “Well I oughta be working in a coal mine, neck deep at black lung soot…” as it felt like the sentiment that must’ve inspired Aaron Lee Tasjan to write E.N.S.A.A.T. However, as I was getting paid to learn the tune, I kept listening and the brilliance of the song quickly set it. I’m a sucker for a good tongue-in-cheek hook, and this is one of the better ones I’ve heard in some time.
“Further North” by Johnathan Rice (Further North)
I met Johnathan through my old band Apache Relay; he helped us in the studio, and we played a couple shows together. This was one of the tunes we worked up and actually kept playing it even after that run ended. And I must say, having just walked through snowy Chicago in January to the coffee shop where I sit writing this, the line “All I found is it gets colder further north you go, it’s pissing rain and snow” hits a little close to home.
“The Only Game in Town” by Gill Landry (Love Rides a Dark Horse)
Trying to pick a single Gill Landry song is a tall task; he’s got too many good ones to choose from. If you haven’t heard ‘Love Rides a Dark Horse’ yet give it a listen; its tasteful melancholy will surely win you over. Runner-up goes to “Just Like You” off his previous self-titled release, a tune fit for a wedding if it weren’t for all the heartbreak.
“Too Stoned to Cry” by Andrew Combs (Worried Man)
Someone else I met through my old band, Apache was lucky enough to convince Andrew to open a run of shows for us a few springs back. Andrew and his band was a formidable act to follow and one of the few openers I regularly tried to catch every night. Anytime they played “Too Stoned to Cry” made the night that much better.
“That Western Skyline” by Dawes (North Hills)
I’m not sure the first time I shared a stage or crossed paths with Dawes. It’s hard to keep track of as they seem to be omnipresent. Never the less, it’s always great to see them live; they put on a very impressive show. “That Western Skyline” has always been one of my favorite tunes of theirs; though, they do anthemic better than most, I like how understated and vulnerable this song is.
“Night Life” by Ray Price (Night Life)
To say I was friends with Ray Price would be a stretch, but I did get the chance to play some shows with his as a member of his string section. Ray needed a new violin player as his violist had been murdered in a bar fight, and they were shuffling around roles. It was quite the backstory to get when you’re called to sub in. But in the few interactions I had with Ray, he was always kind, generous and supportive, and oh my god could he sing.
“Just Your Memory” by JP Harris and the Tough Choices (I’ll Keep Calling)
I’ve been in the rotating cast of Tough Choices since JP asked me to play Newport Folk Festival with him in July of 2016. Somehow, we had never met at home in Nashville despite our affinity for both music and carpentry, but I’m sure glad we did. And I’m glad I got to know this song. JP’s got a ton of great barn-burner-truck-driving-beer-slamming honky-tonk tunes, but he’s also great at penning slow sad bastard country waltzes and ballads, such as “Just Your Memory.”
“A Moment’s Rest” by The Devil Makes Three (I’m a Stranger Here)
I’m currently out with these guys, playing fiddle and baritone guitar, so notably, this pick may be a bit biased. My neighbor from high school showed me the first Devil Makes Three record years ago, but I hadn’t listened to them much since until Pete asked me to go out with them last October. I showed up to Putney, Vermont for rehearsal having only talked to Pete on the phone and without knowing anyone else in the band or crew, but I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be traveling North America with.
“Acid Tongue” by Jenny Lewis (Acid Tongue)
I was fortunate enough to get to sit in with Jenny on a couple tunes a few summers ago. She wanted me to play fiddle on a few songs, but my favorite one we did was “Acid Tongue”; Jenny, an acoustic guitar, and the rest of the band gathered around a condenser to sing this one every night, and every night, it was the highlight of the show for me.
“Ember in the Ash” by Blank Range (Marooned with the Treasure)
I’ve known the Blank Range guys for quite some time, dating back to an Easter weekend that Grant let me crash in his apartment in Naperville, Illinois. I think that might predate the band actually. Anyway, I just saw Taylor and Grant play this song at a Christmas party/house show in town and immediately fell in love with it. Check out the rest of the record, too.
“Happy Again” by The Wild Feathers (Lonely is a Lifetime)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a Wild Feathers tune, and not only because I run into one of them every time I go to Dino’s Bar and Grill. Another great Nashville (or anywhere) band, this may be my favorite tune of theirs. I heard it a bunch before they made this record, and before Joel added that tasty bass line.
“Bottle Rocket” by The Weeks (Easy)
A lot of my best memories from the road have been while out with The Weeks. Easily one of the best and kindest
Photo Credit: Melissa Madison Fuller