There is no right way to handle a pandemic in terms of creative productivity and, moreover, there’s no judgment allowed. Some artists have struggled to find their muse over the past several months, and can you blame them? Sometimes just getting out of bed is no small feat.

Some acts, however, have managed to write and record new music. These three new albums are worth your money and time.

Hat Check Girl “Kiss Me Quick” album cover Photo by Peter Galway, design by Annie Gallup

Hat Check Girl is the married Americana duo of Peter Galway and Annie Gallup, both seasoned musicians who have released several solo albums through the decades. Last year Gallup released “Bookish” and it was one of my favorite albums of the year, such was the intricate and poignant songwriting.

As Hat Check Girl, they’ve made eight albums. The newest is “Kiss Me Quick,” released Sept. 18 and available at select Bull Moose Music locations, online at bullmoose.com and on streaming platforms. I haven’t really dug into the Hat Check Girl discography, but as far as “Kiss Me Quick” goes, I do declare: Holy Toledo!

With a profound sense of space and time, the dozen songs are snapshots in a sepia-toned album, and it all starts with “Moving West.” Here’s what they said about it in a press release. “A small movie about letting go of the family home, in the style of Sam Shepard.” Lyrically, the song is solid gold. “We’ll take the 10-cent goldfish, the credit cards and a couple hundred bucks/We’re moving west, wish us luck.” This song, like the others on the album, was written as a duet, with some singing in unison, some trading of lines and swapping of verses and other well-thought-out vocal interplay. Instrumentally, the conversation is carried by Gallup’s lap steel and Galway’s electric guitar. Every aspect of “Kiss Me Quick” happened in their Rockland home and studio.

Indulge me to tell you about a few other tracks. “Earl Had the Night Shift” is based on a real Earl that Galway knew from an Upper West Side Manhattan garage many years ago. “He was a good man, Earl, with his seasoned, city wisdom and natural gentleness,” said Galway. “His eyes’d get heavy but he’d never drift off, there were cars to move all night long.” “He Loved Horses,” is based on a friend of the couple from Montana, who shared their father’s story with Galway. “This song was inspired by that, by another wonderful Western soul who took me mule riding in the Swan Valley, and by Cormac McCarthy, whose novels take me all the way in,” explained Galway. “Kiss Me Quick” is an album for those of us who appreciate Americana and folk music with poetic, descriptive lyrics that will transport you to far off lands and emotional landscapes.

Album cover of Anni Clark’s “Will It Ever Be the Same” Painting by Judy Puiia, design by Betsey Shepard

Anni Clark is a singer-songwriter who has earned her place in the fabric of Maine’s musical landscape with decades of live shows and an eight-album discography. The latest is “Will It Ever Be the Same,” with a Sept. 25 release date. Her last studio album was 2002’s “Big Water.”

In the new CD’s liner notes, Clark shares what is at the album’s core: “These 12 songs all connect in some way and speak, at least to me, about love, loss, transition, hope, social distance and the need to find closeness.” She asks if our lives can ever be the same after COVID-19 and wonders if perhaps they can be better. The title track opens the album and in the context of the pandemic, it will elicit tears if you let it. The back story simply most be told. Toward the end of May, Clark was at the end of a 10-week solo quarantining stint. She was feeling intense loneliness and went to the end of a dock on Moosehead Lake to let the emotions pour out. What she didn’t plan on was losing her balance and ending up in the water with a significant leg injury. She pulled herself to shore in water so cold that hypothermia was a real risk. With 20 stitches and two days after a hospital stay, she wrote the song. “I believe I survived this near-death experience for a reason. I have more music to share, more life to live and more lessons to live,” she writes.

“Will It Ever Be the Same” was produced by Clark and Bob Colwell and was recorded and mixed by Colwell at The Root Cellar in Hallowell. Mastering was by Justin Maxwell. Clark penned all the songs, and co-wrote “I Need Your Love” with Dan Merrill. A few other standout tracks are “Woman in White,” “The Ocean is Music” and “November 1963.” The latter recalls Clark’s memory of being a young girl and hearing of the assassination of JFK. “I was just a sprouting seed, full of hope and proud of my country but I lost part of the kid in November 1963,” sings Clark. Clark wisely includes the song she released last year, “I’m With You Greta” about 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Pick up a copy of “Will It Ever Be the Same” at Bull Moose and online at bullmoose.com. You’ll find it on streaming platforms starting Sept. 25.

Anni Clark
“Will It Ever Be the Same” Album Release Live Stream
7 p.m. Friday. One Longfellow Square Facebook page

The World Famous Grassholes “South Congress” album cover. Design by Mike Fink

Bluegrass could very well be the genre to cure whatever ails you. Stomping your feet while hearing sweet harmonies, a spirited fiddle and often clever, sassy lyrics is a restorative tonic for your ears and soul. Bluegrass also knows when to try a little tenderness. Therefore, it is with a mile-wide grin I point you toward the World Famous Grassholes and their album “South Congress,” which is their fourth release and was produced by Jonathan Wyman.

The band is fiddler Heather Kahill, guitarists Merrill Marsh and Sam Pfeifle, bassist Flann O’Brien and Field Rider on banjo and harmonica. All five sing and each sings lead on at least one song, with Pfeile handling lead on four tracks and dueting with Kahill on “Saw that Smile” and the Shovels & Rope tune “Boxcar.”

All 11 tracks on “South Congress” were recorded in a single day, live at Wyman’s Halo studio. Mastering duties were masterfully handled by C Money Burns at Cosmic Black. Roll up your sleeves and dig into tracks like the instrumental “Industry Canter” and my favorite tune on the album, “Maybe.” The World Famous Grassholes also cover Peter Rowan’s “Walls of Time” with O’Brien on lead vocals, and it’s got a dark and moody edge to it, accented by Kahill’s fiddle. Grab your partner and do si do to “The Nashville Skyline Rag” and feel Pfeifle’s  subtle yet effective rage on the quite catchy number “Brett Kavanaugh.”

The World Famous Grassholes
2 p.m. Oct. 4. Poland Spring Resort Gazebo, 640 Maine St., Poland Spring, free, $10 suggested donation to the Poland String Preservation Society. worldfamousgrassholes.com.

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