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My Favorite Local Album-Show Combos: 2021

Seeing new music live this year felt like much-needed magic.

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During the COVID-19 touring shutdown, I clung to new albums especially tightly.

As a result, once shows started back up, getting to see recent and upcoming releases unfold in front of my eyes felt like a new type of magic.

Here are a handful of local album-concert pairings that were especially enchanting.

Lucy Dacus

Album: “Home Video”

Show: Sept. 11 at the National

The depth of Lucy Dacus’ music isn’t just evident in her vivid storytelling or emotional insight; it’s also present in how she inspires multiple modes of listening. The awe-inspiring first spin. The volume-high cathartic blasts. The headphones-in close readings in which each word finds its place in your memory -- in your life. Miraculously, these modes converge when seeing Dacus perform. Getting to see the songs from her outstanding album “Home Video” come alive – “Triple Dog Dare” in particular, at the National isn’t just a highlight from a particular year -- it’s unforgettable.

Read more in this Style Weekly cover story on the Dacus and her new album.

Benét

Album: “Game Over!” EP

Show: Dec. 11 at the Broadberry

I bought my cassette of Benét’s “Game Over!” EP on the same August day he was featured on the cover of Spotify’s Fresh Finds playlist. That placement lit a fire: I needed a tape immediately, before Plan 9’s supplies ran out. Benét’s Dec.11 headlining set at the Broadberry was equally incendiary. His band was tight and buoyant and his command of the room – of the moment – was something to behold. Being part of an enthusiastic crowd dancing along to “Shoot Your Shot” felt like crossing an item off my 2021 bucket list.

Read more about Benét and the show in this Style article.

Matthew E. White

Albums: “K. Bay,” “Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection”

Show: Aug. 26 at Virginia Credit Union LIVE!

Matthew E. White was everywhere in 2021. At the helm of a collaborative LP featuring spontaneous wordsmith Lonnie Holley. Deep in a kaleidoscopic groove on his album “K. Bay." Onstage as the first act at that amazing Benét show at the Broadberry. But a special nod goes to his set opening for Drive-By Truckers at Virginia Credit Union LIVE! The arrangement was an adventure unto itself; White was flanked by keyboard brilliance with Daniel Clarke stage left and DJ Harrison stage right. The liftoff achieved during “Hedged In Darkness” was euphoric, turning a then-unreleased “K. Bay” track into an instant favorite.

Read more about White and Holley's project in this Style Weekly article.

Curt Sydnor

Album: “The Consort”

Show: July 20 at the Hofheimer Building’s Dark Room

While just six songs in length, Curt Sydnor’s 2021 album “The Consort” overflows with inventiveness. Remarkably, it’s just one of three releases he shared within a year, each bursting with its own blend of brilliance. I had to see for myself. Being in the Dark Room and watching Sydnor at the keys articulating ideas from every corner of the musical universe felt like finding the piece that joins two partially completed regions of a puzzle. I needed something that seemed magical to be made real, and with the help of bassist Cameron Ralston, drummer Scott Clark, and vocalist Laura Ann Singh, it was.

Read more about Curt Sydnor in this Style Weekly article about his return to Central Virginia.

Justin Golden

Album: “Idle Hands” EP

Show: Oct. 9 at the Richmond Folk Festival

Justin Golden’s performance at the Richmond Folk Festival under the Virginia Folklife tent was a revelation. Backed by The Come Up (Lance Kohler on drums, Chip Hale on bass, Tyler Meacham on keys, and Nate Hubbard on guitar), the Richmond-based blues singer-songwriter and fingerstyle guitarist mixed new song debuts with familiar favorites like “Arm’s Length,” earning a standing ovation from those lucky enough to have snagged a folding chair. Golden wasn’t done surprising fans, however. A month later, without warning, he dropped a four-song EP titled “Idle Hands” which includes “Arm’s Length” and the heavy-hitting single “It Ain’t Much.”

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