Sonny and Cher. Jack and Meg White of The White Stripes. Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Musicians that are first and foremost couples that make music together are almost as iconic as the songs they put out. People love a good story to tie the music to, and one of the most compelling pieces of any story is love. The act My Forever DJ proudly owns this fact and is entirely a byproduct of love.

Couple Diane and Jeff bonded in 2018 after meeting online and sharing palpable chemistry over their mutual aspirations and adoration of music. However, it wasn’t until the crisis surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 took off that the two knew what they had to do: strike out on a massive trek across the southern region of the United States with the sole intention of gaining historical insight and musical inspiration as they craft a wholly homegrown album influenced by their love of music, and their love for one another. The result? Southern Hotspots, the debut project released under the moniker My Forever DJ (the last two initials being an amalgamation of Diane and Jeff’s.)

The attention to detail within the songs chosen for the album is impressive, as there is plenty available to pick and choose from when crafting a rock music cover album, yet there’s the sense Diane and Jeff honed in on a carefully-curated tracklisting. With its lo-fi sensibilities and vulnerable recording process, it comes across nearly as a playlist initially meant for the couple alone that they’re now gladly welcoming audiences in to hear. There is a certain air of bravery to the entire project, yes, as something so uniquely handled and delicate can still function as the soundtrack to an undertaking as grand and headstrong as a road trip clocking in at twelve-hundred miles in length, all while navigating a global crisis of the likes the modern world has never seen. The couple loudly declares that they are seizing the day, loading up their recording equipment, and making the best out of a less-than-optimal situation. Through the music, the sense of togetherness is airtight. With headphones on, we are all in the same space, existing within the confines of a private performance as Diane and Jeff beckon us to come closer, grab a seat, and crack open a beer. Take off your shoes, stay awhile.

The album never hesitates, perhaps summoning inspiration from the trusty vessel necessary to take one across a thousand miles, as it dances from song to song as well as place to place. It’s easy to say the influences are visible when it comes to cover albums, but Southern Hotspots takes this a step further in its conception by placing songs across the country’s lower half and adding a unique texture and seasoning to the basic idea of what a concept album can truly be. The album’s art tracks the overall map of the journey, giving the music an interactive quality. Anyone can cover Hank Williams’ “Kawliga” but My Forever DJ did it in Kowaliga, Alabama, right where Hank originally did it himself.

Cover albums can come and go, but My Forever DJ arrives on the scene with a flag in their hand, eager to plant it in the ground and make their claim that cover albums this layered aren’t going anywhere. The intrigue at what can possibly come next after such a bold statement of a first album remains to be sated, but listeners can rest assured that Diane and Jeff don’t seem to have any intention of slowing.

Garth Thomas