The Shape Of Americana Music To Come – Six Young Performers To Keep On Your Radar
Welcome to the Class of 2010 – Six Young Performers To Keep On Your Radar
These days young musicians are rediscovering formerly forgotten musical themes while others are taking musical elements from past generations and reassembling them into entirely new formats. There is a lot of competition for your attention and it’s never been harder for a young band or performer to stand out and get noticed. Just like Bob Dylan threw out the rulebook 45 years ago when he plugged in an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Fest, the six promising young bands and performers noted below each found their own formula for breaking the rules on their creative re-interpretation of what americana music could be. These six talented performers and bands hail from all over the world and have established the framework of what is sure to be long and fruitful careers. Without further ado, meet the Class of 2010 and have a look at this year’s most likely to succeed americana music makers:
Who: These United States
Sounds like: a countryfied version of Modest Mouse with an infusion of DNA from the “Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash” era of The Replacements
Hails from: Lexington, KY and Washington, DC
Why you need to keep ’em on your radar: There’s quite a few reasons actually but two come to mind immediately:
#1: These United States play music that is likely to have mass appeal. There’s really something here for everyone with These United States latest long player “Everything Touches Everything”: for starters there’s the tasteful twang of pedal steel guitar on the easygoing ballad “The Secret Door” which will appeal to fans of countryfied rock and roll while the tripped-out garage rock fuzz of “Conquest and Consequences” will likely put a smile on the face of the flannel wearing indie rocking hipster nation. Oh yeah, and this band tours all the time gaining new fans download by download, town by town, and show by show.
#2: These United States look like a proper rock band. In an era where the popular rock and country bands are wearing oversized sunglasses, designer bluejeans with the silly embroidered back pockets, $700 custom boots, and those god-awful Ed Hardy / Affliction t-shirts (usually paired with either a pearl snapped shirt bought from the local shopping mall or a pretentious sportcoat), thankfully the southern boys in These United States look like just you and me: a bunch of regular guys who let their music, instead of their wardrobes, do the talking. Refreshing.
Who: Mumford and Sons
Sounds like: The sweeping southwestern musical vistas of Calexico mated with the celebratory irish folk ballads of The Pogues
Hails from: London, UK
Why you need to keep ’em on your radar: I was hipped to Mumford and Sons by Brian Eyster, Marketing Director of Telluride Bluegrass and Rockygrass Festivals. If you think music critics have a tough time wading through stacks and stacks of new music, you oughtta see the stacks of music Brian Eyster sifts through to find that perfect new band to introduce to his festival crowds. So when Brian tells me he’s found a new band worth checking out, I trust his opinion.
Imagine the grandeur and sweeping southwestern musical textures of Calexico mixed with the uptempo brash acoustic folk rock of The Pogues – where every song is an anthem of celebration…that would still only give you a hint of the power of this promising young band’s music. Mumford and Sons recent single release entitled “Winter Winds” demonstrates the band’s penchant for penning huge ballads and is definitely worth finding on Youtube.
Who: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Wheel
Sounds like: I don’t often use the phrase “you-need-to-hear-it-to-believe-it-one-of-a-kind” to describe an artist but Nathaniel Rateliff and the Wheel certainly deserve the moniker
Hails from: Denver, Colorado
Why you need to keep ’em on your radar: Rounder Records recently added The Wheel to their roster after a fantastic showing at last year’s CMJ Marathon in New York City which ought to tell you something. On top of that, The Wheel has grown a fervently loyal fanbase in their hometown of Denver, Colorado that packs every hometown show the band plays.
The young band also has earned valuable support from the local Colorado music media which allowed the band to gain the attention of more music fans which allowed the band to make the leap from small clubs to larger music theatres in 2009. With the benefits of being on a well known indie label’s roster, the wonderfully unique musical style of the band and it’s down to earth troubador frontman Nathaniel Rateliff all assure that 2010 is sure to be a breakout year nationwide for the young folk band from Denver, Colorado.
Who: 500 Miles to Memphis
Sounds like: The Old 97’s, Reckless Kelly, Rocky Votolato, Gaslight Anthem, The Jayhawks
Hails from: Cincinnatti, Ohio
Why you need to keep ’em on your radar: Any band that packs club shows in their hometown and annually wins their local newspaper’s fan favorite / best band of the year award above better known bands has to be doing something right. In their hometown, 500MTM are one of the best known and beloved bands known for getting people who hate country music to make an exception on their behalf. Indie rock kids love ’em, PBR swilling punk rockers love ’em, rednecks with gunracks in their pickup trucks love ’em, and even fans of modern pop country love ’em. Best of all, frontman Ryan Malott possesses a voice that will never be confused or compared to any other singer [more famous].
On paper it might appear as if the band has a confused genre identity but quite the opposite is true. Proudly embracing the country punk label attached to them, 500 Miles to Memphis is honestly much more than the label would suggest: honky tonk ballads based on drinking + technical punk rock-esque rythm breakdowns (that The Old 97’s can only dream of pulling off) + paint peeling pedal steel led double time barn burners = this band rocks. The band’s albums have consistently garnered respectable sales through stalwart indie label Deep Elm Records and in 4+ years on the road, the band has gone from playing to only bartenders and bouncers to filling clubs across the central timezone of this country with fans of all ages (especially young women) who all claim they discovered the band first – that is always a good sign for a long career.
Who: Elin Palmer
Sounds like: Avante-garde + vaudeville + chamber-pop + angelic-vocals
Hails from: Värmlands län, Sweden
Why you need to keep her on your radar: Performers like Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, David Eugene Edwards, Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots, and sisters Sera and Kal Cahoone are no strangers to the readers of No Depression through the years. Lesser known is the fact that multi instrumentalist and Swedish ingenue Elin Palmer has been either a touring member or guest musician with each of the aforementioned legendary modern folk bands.
Breaking out from her role as a support musician, Elin spent last year fabricating the framework for her solo career effort. Enlisting folk music heavyweight producers Bob Ferbrache and John Rumley, Elin set out to capture the songs she kept in her heart that grew forth from her traditional Swedish upbringing along with her predilection for the dark gothic country sounds of bands she played in as a hired gun. Elin’s latest studio effort from 2009 combined her multi instrumental abilities, ethereal voice, angelic beauty, and infusion of delicate swedish folk melodies injected into indie rock song structures resulting in a batch of folk songs that quickly cut through the chatter and static of thousands of other folk musicians out there eaking an existence from coffee shop to coffee shop.
Who: Stephen Marcus
Sounds like: John Prine, John Popper, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Levon Helm
Hails from: Crested Butte, Colorado
Why you need to keep him on your radar:Young Stephen Marcus from Crested Butte, Colorado threw everyone for a loop in late 2009 with a single debut song release featuring only an acoustic guitar, his voice, and a single microphone that not only blew minds but left everyone wondering just how exactly such a talented musician could exist under the radar for so long. In the months that followed, everyone who has since seen the young man from Crested Butte, Colorado perform now wonders why he isn’t better known across the country.
Possessing a heartbreaking voice reminscient of a young John Prine, the acoustic guitar skills of Jorma Kaukonen, and the harmonica skills of John Popper, it’s safe to say Stephen Marcus won’t be unknown for very long. Perhaps the most unique feature about Stephen Marcus above and beyond his obvious musical talent is his desire to give back to his community summarized in a wonderful feature article by fellow Colorado music critic Eryc Eyl at The Denver Post: “Today, the raspy-voiced heartbreaker hasn’t yet achieved all he wants to. He hopes this year will bring both a publishing contract and his first full-length CD. In the meantime, however, he’s using his talents to help the Crested Butte Arts Center. He is offering the two aforementioned songs, “Rotate My Mind” and “If the Phone Ain’t Ringing,” as 25-cent downloads via his Bandcamp site, and he’s sharing half of all sales with CBAC. While this gift probably won’t lead to thousands of dollars in funding for the Center, Marcus hopes that his small gesture will allow the Crested Butte Arts Center to continue to grow and act as the focus of the town’s artistic community. ” I couldn’t have said it any better.