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Neil Young is in the pantheon of rock stars partly for the extraordinary groups he’s been in, including Buffalo Springfield, his own Crazy Horse and, of course, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. But there’s much more to the accomplished singer-songwriter, producer, director, screenwriter and entrepreneur as well, including his humanitarian efforts and social activism. The Canadian rocker’s got Grammy Awards, Juno Awards and scads of additional recognition, including dual membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1995 for his solo work and 1997 with Buffalo Springfield). He remains prolific and has recently found common cause with the young self-described “Cowboy Hippy Surf Rock” band Promise of the Real. The group (which includes Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah Nelson) first played shows in 2008 and released studio albums “Promise of the Real” in 2010 and “Wasted” in 2012. A couple of years ago, Young jammed with POTR and later asked them to be on his project “The Monsanto Years” (Young’s 36th studio album) and go on tour with him. The concept album is an expression of Young’s longtime crusade against corporate greed, particularly targeting the agri-chemical giant. It’s garnered positive reviews from numerous critics, although not so much from the executives at Monsanto.
For more than 20 years, Beck has been transforming musical perceptions. The singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist is referred to as alternative and indie, which is convenient shorthand, but he’s remarkably versatile, having found expression in a range of styles and approaches, from lo-fi to funk, folk/anti-folk to alt-rock, country to hip-hop, soul to psychedelia. His breakthrough single was 1994’s “Loser” and his 1996 album “Odelay” secured his reputation as an experimental genius. He continues to turn out one unpredictable album after another, such as 1998's “Mutations,” 1999's “Midnite Vultures,” 2002's “Sea Change,” 2005's “Guero,” 2006's “The Information” and 2008’s “Modern Guilt.” (“Odelay" and “Sea Change,” are ranked on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time). Last year’s “Morning Phase,” meanwhile, won Grammys for Album of the Year; Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and Best Rock Album.
With the Beale Street Music Festival at the top of Paul Simon’s North American tour this year, the rock/folk/pop star is highlighting his 13th solo studio album, “Stranger to Stranger.” Of course he’s more of a legend than a stranger: The phenomenal performer has earned 12 Grammy Awards, three of which (“Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Still Crazy After All These Years” and “Graceland”) were albums of the year. He won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 for his work with Art Garfunkel and is a member of The Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a member of Simon and Garfunkel and as a solo artist. Simon was honored by The Kennedy Center in 2002 and in 2011 and was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the mid-1980s he released the much-lauded “Graceland” that included these lyrics in the title song: “I’m going to Graceland, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee.” Simon is tireless, having gone on a global tour with Sting in 2014 and 2015, and he’s done a recent project in which he wrote and performed the theme song for Louis C.K.’s new web series “Horace And Pete.” He is also known for his philanthropy, supporting music education as well as children’s health initiatives.
Weezer has long courted controversy. It’s first, eponymous album (the Blue Album) made a big splash with rock hit singles "Undone (The Sweater Song)," "Buddy Holly," and "Say It Ain't So,” but some thought those tunes and the skillful videos were a one-time splash. Leader Rivers Cuomo and the band were unconventional, and the second album, 1996’s “Pinkerton,” was more about Cuomo’s songwriting, which was less commercially effective and got mixed critical reviews. There followed a time when Weezer was in and out of the public eye but there was an ongoing fascination with “Pinkerton.” Eventually, in 2001, the second eponymous album (called the Green Album) was a hit. It would go on to record “Make Believe” in 2005 (which went platinum), then “Weezer” (the Red Album) in 2008, “Raditude” in 2009 and “Hurley” in 2010. After a break, the band came out with “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” in 2014 to solid reviews. As Q Magazine put it: "It's a perfectly calibrated record."
Zedd — real name Anton Zaslavski — is a Grammy-winning Russian-German musician and music producer with grounding in electro house as well as progressive house, dubstep and classical music. He’s known for collaborations with Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and has produced remixes of Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and The Black Eyed Peas. His tunes “Clarity” and “Break Free,” were hits, the latter peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs list. Zedd’s Grammy for Best Dance Recording is for “Clarity.” His parents are musicians and he is a classically trained musician who claims influences from Silverchair, Genesis, King Crimson and Queen. He started producing electronic music in 2009 and under the name Zedd has turned out numerous remixes and original works. Last year, he released the album “True Colors,” with the single “I Want You to Know” with Selena Gomez. As Rolling Stone said: "Everything the German producer handles, from his own 2013 smash "Clarity" to Ariana Grande's "Break Free" last year, turns to candy-rave gold."
In 1998, the San Francisco roots-rock band Train made its mark with its successful self-named album that had the hit “Meet Virginia.” Train's 2001 album, “Drops of Jupiter” had the hit single "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)", which won two Grammys. The double platinum project remains the band's best-selling album. Albums three and four were “My Private Nation” in 2003 and “For Me, It's You” in 2006. Train went on hiatus until 2009’s “Save Me, San Francisco,” which produced several singles, including Grammy winner "Hey, Soul Sister,” "If It's Love" and "Marry Me.” Since then, the band has put out “California 37” in 2012, “Bulletproof Picasso” in 2014 and “Christmas in Tahoe” last year. Frontman Pat Monahan took advantage of the band’s 2006-’09 hiatus to put out a solo album, “Last of Seven,” which produced the singles "Her Eyes” and "Two Ways to Say Goodbye."
Grammy Award-winner Meghan Trainor has long been highly focused. She grew up in a musical family and wrote, recorded, performed and produced three independently released albums between the ages of 15 and 17. Now 22, she released her first major-label debut studio album, “Title” in 2015. It debuted as No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and contained four top 20 singles: "All About That Bass,” "Lips Are Movin,""Dear Future Husband" and "Like I'm Gonna Lose You.” Meghan has staked out a place championing self esteem for women with the fun but unapologetic “All About That Bass,” which talks about body image, empowerment and womanhood. Last year she got treatment for vocal cord damage while continuing to write prolifically but is now back performing and recording. She’s released her second album with Epic, “Thank You,” which, she told MTV, “shows my love for Bruno Mars and Aretha Franklin and even some Elvis vibes.”
Singer, songwriter, dancer and chart-buster Jason Derulo has rocketed to the top as one of the best-selling, radio-dominating pop and urban artists on the scene. He started out writing songs for Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Diddy, Sean Kingston and others and since then has sold more than 50 million singles with two billion-plus YouTube views and a cool billion plays on Spotify. Last June he released album No. 4: “Everything is 4” that blended pop, dance and urban sounds. “Want to Want Me” is the single from that album that went platinum and became the biggest Top 40 U.S. radio launch for the Miami-born Derulo. And here are more numbers to crunch: he has 11 platinum singles, and his radio audience is more than 17 billion. Eleven of his songs have cracked the Top 10 on the Top 40 charts — including four No. 1’s.
When indie darling Modest Mouse released their 1996 debut album, “This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About,” they began to pave the way for Pacific Northwest indie acts such as Death Cab for Cutie and the Shins. The next year, “The Lonesome Crowded West,” brought some punk and country influences from the threesome of Isaac Brock, Eric Judy and Jeremiah Green. Their unique sound and commercial success resulted in “The Moon & Antarctica” in 2000, “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” in 2004 and “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" in 2007, which was the band’s first album to reach No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 charts along with three hit singles. It wasn’t until last year that their sixth album, “Strangers to Ourselves,” was released. As a review in Pitchfork put it, Modest Mouse is “a band that takes their fans and their albums seriously and think hard about how to deliver on their expectations.”
Las Vegas rock band Panic! at the Disco released its debut studio album, “A Fever You Can't Sweat Out” (2005) that had the top 10 single "I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” The band’s second album, “Pretty. Odd.,” (2008) was a departure influenced by the Beatles, the Zombies and the Beach Boys. “Vices & Virtues” was the third album released in 2011 with vocalist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith. In 2013, it released “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!” to favorable reviews. Earlier this year it released “Death of a Bachelor”, which includes the single “Hallelujah.” The entire album is written and recorded by Urie, which reflects its inspiration — he said on the band’s Facebook page that when he was a kid, he spent a lot of time improvising drum kits, playing piano and guitar. “This album is me. Running to the piano. Building a drum kit. Strumming a guitar.”
Rapper Yo Gotti — born Mario Mims in Frayser — is a leader in Memphis-flavored street poetry that’s picked up a wide following. In 1996, calling himself Lil Yo, Gotti issued debut album “Youngsta's On a Come Up.” In 2000 he put out “From Da Dope Game 2 Da Rap Game” followed by “Self-Explanatory” (2001), “Life” (2003), “Back 2 da Basics” (2006) and “Live from the Kitchen” (2012). Gotti started his own label, CMG, and issued “I Am” in 2013 and this year’s “The Art of Hustle.” He explained “I Am” saying: “It fits perfectly. I am real, I am a hustler, I am the streets, I am a business man, I am a father, I am a brother, I am success.” As for “The Art of Hustle,” Gotti’s a virtuoso practitioner. He says, “I got hustling in my blood. In any situation I can adapt. Although I’ve been making music for just about a decade and a half, I’m still young, but have that experience.”
Since 2002, Grace Potter fronted the Nocturnals as it made its mark playing energetic blues rock, folk rock, hard rock and alt-rock. Formed in 2002 in Vermont by drummer Matt Burr, guitarist Scott Tourney and singer Grace Potter, the band quickly gained popularity, issuing four studio albums, touring and being featured on films and TV both as guests and on soundtracks. Potter, who has guested with a diverse list of musicians including Kenny Chesney and The Rolling Stones, embarked on her solo project that resulted in last year’s release of last year’s “Midnight.” She cites Miles Davis, Dylan, the Beatles, Bowie, Blondie and Beck as the sort of artists she admires for making sonic leaps from record to record. She says “Midnight” is a mid-career turn for her that proves genuinely freeing: “ ‘Midnight’ feels like a new beginning, but really, it’s a continuation of my story. This music means so much to me because it was hard-won. It was a terrifying yet fulfilling process of boiling down what I really wanted to say.”
Young the Giant delivers big rock and roll with a global flavor. The California band formed in 2004 (as the Jakes) and was signed by Roadrunner Records in 2009 and released its eponymous debut album in 2010. The band's first three singles, "My Body", "Cough Syrup" and "Apartment" reached the top five of the US Alternative Songs chart. The New York Times described the first two singles as “excellent, spasmodic, theatrical indie rock on steroids.” The band member’s diverse backgrounds are reflected in their music as they integrate their European and Middle Eastern cultures to achieve a global sound. In 2014, “Mind over Matter”was released and again the Times weighed in, saying, “frontman Sameer Gadhia has one of the great contemporary rock voices, capable of huge swells without sounding pompous…” The quintet met as teens in California, but most came from elsewhere. Gadhia is from Michigan, guitarist Jacob Tilley from England, guitarist Eric Cannata from New Jersey, drummer François Comtois from Canada while only bassist Payam Doostzadeh is from California.
Indie rockers Cold War Kids got started in 2004 in Fullerton, California with a love for international blues and, as they say, “friends, jangly guitar, hand claps, and a Harmony amp in a storage room atop a restaurant.” With influences like Dylan, Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley and the Velvet Underground, it started its recording career with major label debut “Robbers & Cowards,” gaining enthusiastic approval from fans and critics. In 2008, it released “Loyalty to Loyalty” and in 2011 “Mine Is Yours.” CWK’s fourth album, released in 2013, was “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” and their most recent, “Hold My Home, was released in 2014. The single "First" came out in February of 2015 and charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, making it the band's highest charting single ever. The band brings a distinctive sound and high energy to its performances that keep fans coming back for more.
Cypress Hill came out of California as the first Latino American hip hop recording artists to have multi-platinum albums, selling more that 18 million albums worldwide. The band formed in 1988, 17 years after Cuban brothers Senen Reyes (Sen Dog) and Ulpiano Sergio Reyes (Mellow Man Ace) moved to California with their family. The brothers joined with Lawrence Muggerud (DJ Muggs) and Louis Freese (B-Real) to form DVX (Devastating Vocal Excellence). When Mellow Man Ace left to go solo, the group became Cypress Hill and developed its distinctive rap style as well as its pro-marijuana advocacy. Its self-titled album in 1991 sold 2 million in the United States. “Black Sunday” in 1993 upped the ante as a commercial success. It’s third album, “III: Temples of Boom” went platinum after its 1995 release. “IV” was released in 1998, “Skull & Bones” two years later and “Stones Raiders” in 2001. In 2004, it released Till Death Do Us Part” followed in its most recent album “Rise Up” in 2010.
Folk singer-songwriter Nathaniel David Rateliff has been building a solid reputation and following since he formed Nathaniel Rateliff and the Wheel and released “Desire and Dissolving Men” in 2007. He then released “In Memory of Loss” in 2010 (called by the BBC “a feast of wry introspection”). Rateliff has shared the stage with artists such as Bon Iver, Mason Jennings, Iron & Wine, Ben Howard, Michael Kiwanuka, The Low Anthem, Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and Rosanne Cash. In 2013, he released his second album “Falling Faster Than You Can Run” and formed the R&B combo Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Last year the release of “Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats” via Stax Records drew praise. Rolling Stone said, “Rateliff comes on like Van Morrison fronting Booker T. & the MG's, reviving the glory days of his label, Stax.” The high octane single “S.O.B.” was said by NPR to have “a profound, even poignant unleashing of sorrow at its heart.”
Canadian rockers Barenaked Ladies formed in 1988 and in short order got a cult following. The band got a record deal with Reprise Records and its label debut, “Gordon” was released in 1992. The music, which began as acoustic, soon took in elements of pop, rock, hip hop and rap. The band's 1996 live album, “Rock Spectacle” and the 1998 studio album “Stunt” brought about success in the United States. Fans of television’s “The Big Bang Theory” may know that the band recorded the theme song for the show. Now, after 27 years together, more than 14 million albums sold, and multiple Juno Awards and Grammy nominations, “Silverball,” the cerebral band’s 14th album finds the long-standing partnership of Ed Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jim Creeggan (bass, vocals), Kevin Hearn (keyboard, guitar, vocals) and Tyler Stewart (drums, vocals) firing on all cylinders.
The Arcs is an American garage rock band formed by Dan Auerbach, the guitarist and vocalist of the Black Keys. He’d wanted to get together with his musician friends Leon Michels, Richard Swift, Homer Steinweiss, Nick Movshon and Kenny Vaughan to put out an album. That album, “Yours, Dreamily,” was released last year to good reviews. Rolling Stone said the album “takes what Auerbach does at his best, in and out of the Keys — confessional, texturally enriched blues propelled with garage-rock force — and adds a riveting jump in eccentricity.” Auerbach has long been busy, not just with the Black Keys but also releasing a solo record and producing albums for Dr. John and Lana Del Rey. It looks, however, as if The Arcs might be in for a longer haul. NPR said, “The Arcs' formula is so winning and natural that the band already has, at least according to Auerbach, a backlog of as many as 75 songs. If even some of those come to fruition, it could prove to be an enduring, endlessly rewarding collaboration.”
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London-based singer/songwriter Dan Smith started Bastille as a solo project in 2010 but soon formed a band that got plenty of notice. Bastille’s 2013 debut album “Bad Blood” entered the UK charts at No. 1 and was sustained by three singles that boosted the band. A fourth single, “Pompeii,” became one of the alternative anthems of the last few years, selling more than ten million singles worldwide, and being the No. 1 rock song on American radio in 2014. The band has gotten nominations for four BRIT Awards, a Grammy nomination, two nominations from the American Music Association awards and a Teen Choice Award for Best Rock Song. It’s also appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as well as the Coachella festival. The band has been in the studio working with producer Mark Crew on their second album due this year.
“We’ve always done what we wanted and how we wanted,” Violent Femmes’ Gordon Gano says. “Fundamentally there’s no difference from then until now. It’s a natural continuation.” The band’s ninth studio album and first full-length collection in more than 15 years, “We Can Do Anything,” is among the most provocative and playful in the band’s canon. Its mash of rambunctious folk, minimalist punk, cubist blues, cosmic jazz and back porch rock ‘n’ roll is a welcome addition. Violent Femmes came together in 1981 and stood out for its originality. The Milwaukee-based would go on to release “American Music,” “Gone Daddy Gone,” “Nightmares, “Add It Up” and “Blister In The Sun.” Worldwide sales have topped 10 million. As Gano says, “There’s the sound we make when we play music together. When we get together to do this thing called Violent Femmes, there’s an energy between us that’s just very intuitive. That was right from the very start and it hasn’t changed.”
With her deadpan delivery and witty lyrics, Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett has been bringing in fan adoration and critical acclaim. Her 2015 debut album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” brought cheers from critics, with several publications decreeing it one of the top albums of 2015: Rolling Stone, The Guardian, The Times, Pitchfork media and the Chicago Tribune. The album helped get her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. The single “Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party”was performed earlier this year on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” NPR’s Jacob Ganz said of her appearance at last year’s SXSW, “At the head of a trio making a grunge-y racket that never overwhelms her vocals, Barnett howls, mumbles, smiles and bounces her way into your heart.” Not bad for someone who just a few years ago was playing second guitar in Melbourne grunge band.
The Gin Blossoms began their ascent in the 1980s, rocking the scene in Phoenix and expanding from there. Fans loving their jangle-pop sound eventually got them qualified to play at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin in 1989. The band’s 1992 breakout record, “New Miserable Experience,” with durable singles “Hey Jealousy,” “Allison Road,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Mrs Rita” and “Found Out About You,” was recorded at Memphis’ Ardent Studios. The Gin Blossoms were influenced by Big Star and the Replacements who recorded at Ardent, so the band wanted to experience that vibe and it’s recorded all its albums there.“Congratulations I’m Sorry” came out in 1996 and soon after that, the band took a four year hiatus. It re-emerged in 2001 touring extensively and releasing the album “Major Lodge Victory” in 2006. In 2010 the Gin Blossoms released “No Chocolate Cake,” and it continues to tour.
Bluegrass/folk-rockers Trampled by Turtles say they were all with various rock bands and got together because they wanted to take a break and play acoustic instruments. Their rock groups went away as they focused on this new venture. It was 2003 and they were trying to get used to this new arrangement but were also having fun. They recorded some albums and did some touring and got more comfortable with who they were. They toured so much they wanted their albums to be like live shows — “Duluth” and “Palomino” illustrate that. But then it became about making something that was one piece of work. “Stars and Satellites” is the result of that. In 2014, they released “Wild Animals,” and NPR said: “This is a thoughtful, stately grower of a record, made all the more enticing by the idea that future live shows will harness the energy coiled just beneath its glimmering surface.”
Nashville’s Moon Taxi formed 10 years ago and have been touring extensively (more than 1,000 shows) and recording (“Live Ride” in 2008, “Cabaret” in 2012 and “Mountains Beaches Cities” in 2013). The latter landed the band their first National late-night television appearances on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and Conan as well as multiple commercial and TV placements. Moon Taxi’s third album released last year is “Daybreaker,” which, frontman Trevor Terndrup says, “has summer vibes all over it.” The band is best known for its high octane live performances and “Daybreaker” was the first time all five members were together in the studio, performing and rehearsing as a band rather than self-producing bits and pieces at home. The band’s music is described as evolutionary — Rolling Stone said it’s “a little indie, a little proggy, kinda poppy, Southern and jammy in a way that might be unrecognizable to oldsters who grew up in an era when Southern jams always meant bong-powered visions of the Allman Brothers.”
Lucinda Williams’ rock/ folk/ blues/ country well is a deep one. She recorded her first albums in the 1970s and ‘80s, traditional country style, and didn’t set the world on fire. But in 1988, she released a self-titled album that had the song “Passionate Kisses.” Mary Chapin Carpenter liked it, recorded it and it got Williams a Grammy Award for Best Country Song. It was in 1998 that she released “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” that showcased a style that blended rock, blues, country and Americana. The acclaimed album went gold and got the singer another Grammy. Named as “America’s Best Songwriter” by Time magazine in 2002, she has been prolific since then, (her 2007 album “West” had 27 of her songs) and she’s been touring as well. This year alone, she released her 13th album, “Ghosts of Highway 20,” and appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
The New Orleans alt-rock trio Better Than Ezra formed in1988 and has proved influential in opening the way for such bands as Semisonic, Matchbox Twenty, and Third Eye Blind. The band has released eight studio albums, starting in 1990 with its cassette-only album, “Surprise.” BTE signed with Elektra in 1995, which re-released 1993’s “Deluxe.” There followed “Friction, Baby (1996) and “How Does Your Garden Grow?” (1998), after which Elektra dropped the band. They signed with Beyond Records, a smaller label, to be a “big fish in a small pond,” according to bassist Tom Drummond. “Closer” was released in 2001, but the label went bankrupt. Later,, BTE released “Before the Robots” (2005) and “Paper Empire” (2009). Its latest is “All Together Now” released in 2014. Allmusic declared that “Unlike many of their peers who faded into nonexistence … Better Than Ezra consistently kept exploring their sound, and eighth studio album All Together Now finds them at characteristic heights of wistful FM radio pop songwriting.”
Thank New Albany, Indiana, for Houndmouth. Four friends got together a few years ago and have been churning out hooks, energy and charisma ever since. It was something of a storybook beginning for Matt Myers, Shane Cody, Katie Toupin and Zak Appleby who formed the group in 2011, did a homemade EP and played at the 2012 SXSW. The head of Rough Trade Records was in the audience and offered them a contract. Houndmouth released the LP “From the Hills Below the City” in 2013 to strong reviews, such as this one from Garden & Gun: “You'd be hard pressed to find a more effortless, well-crafted mix of roots and rock this year than the debut album from this Louisville quartet.” Last year it released “Little Neon Limelight” with the single “Sedona.” Of the album, NPR said it’s: “a youthful devotion to shaggy, swinging, big-screen storytelling that distinguishes their work from many of their more confessional, serious-minded peers.”
More than three decades have passed since Los Lobos released their debut album, “Just Another Band from East L.A.” That title no longer applies, of course, and it’s become a band that has evolved artistically while never losing sight of its humble roots. As Rolling Stone magazine put it: “This is what happens when five guys create a magical sound, then stick together for 30 years to see how far it can take them.” Los Lobos were already established by the time they recorded their major label debut “How Will The Wolf Survive?” in 1984. There was a struggle to gain mainstream rock success while maintaining their Mexican roots. Louie Perez, the band’s drummer, said their energetic mix of rock, Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B, blues and traditional Spanish and Mexican music was “the soundtrack of the barrio.” Three decades, two more Grammys, a worldwide smash single (“La Bamba”) and thousands of performances across the globe later, Los Lobos is still jamming with the same intensity as they had in 1973.
The Joy Formidable was formed in North Wales in 2007 but soon moved to London where is got notice in 2008. They were a festival favorite and The Guardian approved of its"darkly joyous soft-loud racket.” The mini-album “A Balloon Called Moaning” came ou tin 2009 and later a live album, getting positive reviews from Spin, The Guardian, The Times and Pitchfork. They signed with Black Bell Records and “Balloon” was released in the United States. The studio debut “The Big Roar” got favorable reviews and they continued to tour. “Wolf’s Law,” recorded in Maine, came out in 2013. In July 2014, the band did a series of monthly vinyl singles, titled “Aruthrol,” with songs done in their native Welsh language released as a double A-side with a contribution by another artist. The band’s third studio album, “Hitch,” was released earlier this year.
The Indigo Girls — Emily Saliers and Amy Ray — have been described by Rolling Stone as the “ideal duet partners. Their voices soar and swoop as one, alternately raucous and soothing. When they sing together, they radiate a sense of shared purpose that adds muscle to their lanky, deeply felt folk-tinged pop songs”. Last year, the duo released their 16th studio album, “One Lost Day,” which shows off their signature harmonies. The Indigo Girls have spent 35 years performing, produced 16 albums (seven gold, four platinum, and one double platinum), earned a Grammy and seven Grammy nominations, and have toured the world over. Starting with 2009's “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug,” (album No. 11), Indigo Girls formed their own label, IG Recordings. The move reinforced their commitment to creative freedom, which is an energy they've also devoted to various social and environmental causes.
“Holding All the Roses” is Blackberry Smoke’s fourth studio album and one that captures the energy, attitude and honesty that have already helped to make the rock/grassroots band a success. There’s a terrific use of three-part harmonies and fiddle with added percussion that adds character to the album. The band started as a rough-edged club act to arena-ready rock 'n' roll juggernaut. Since its formation in 2000, the band has worked hard, playing more than 250 shows a year and building an ever-expanding audience on the strength of its live shows. The New Orleans Times-Picayune called Blackberry Smoke "an airtight band that is far smarter and more sophisticated than casual observers may realize... Blackberry Smoke's amalgamation of hearty Southern rock, alt-country and deep soul is equally suited for roadhouses or arenas." "We've built our audience one fan at a time," states drummer Brit Turner. "Sometimes it feels like we know every one of them personally, and we're constantly amazed and moved by their loyalty and passion."
Mavis Staples is living, breathing history. She is an alchemist of American music, having continuously crossed genre lines like no musician since Ray Charles. Weaving herself into the very fabric of gospel, soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues, rock and hip hop over the last 60 years, this iconic singer has seen and sung through so many changes, always rising up to meet every road. Now in her seventh decade, with the release of her new album "Livin' on a High Note", she is only gaining momentum. Produced by M. Ward with songs by Neko Case, Justin Vernon, Nick Cave, Ben Harper, Tune-Yards, Aloe Blacc and others, the album serves as a summation and furtherance of her illustrious career. There is no persona; she is, simply and untouchably, Mavis-and "Livin' on a High Note" is the symphony of her life.
As the elder statesman of British blues, it is John Mayall's lot to be more renowned as a bandleader and mentor than as a performer in his own right. Throughout the '60s, his band, the Bluesbreakers, acted as a finishing school for the leading British blues-rock musicians of the era. Guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor joined his band in a remarkable succession in the mid-'60s, honing their chops with Mayall before going on to join Cream, Fleetwood Mac, and the Rolling Stones, respectively. John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser (of Free), John Almond, and Jon Mark also played and recorded with Mayall for varying lengths of times in the '60s.
The Front Bottoms are exemplars of the New Jersey pop underground, a witty mix of punk, guitar-folk and lo-fi experimentalism. As the band evolved, it played various venues such as punk flophouses, VFW halls and fire stations. But they kept touring, widening the circle from New England to Florida and eventually got some recognition, including from the Los Angeles Times. T heir first two albums on the Bar/None label were followed with “Talon of the Hawk” in 2013, recorded in Austin. The band now has a loyal following around the globe. In June 2015, it was announced they had signed to the label Fueled By Ramen. The band’s new album with their new label is “Back on Top,” which keeps the essentials but brings in new elements, such as a bigger rock sounds and more melodic vocals.
English band The Struts formed in 2010 and are known for over-the-top, glam, classic rock, the kind inspired by Queen, Oasis, the Rolling Stones and The Libertines. On the strength of their dynamic live performance, the Struts quickly built up a major following and started selling out shows all across Europe, including appearances with the Rolling Stones and Motley Crue. With the band’s full-length debut “Everybody Wants,” lead vocalist Luke Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies have put down the energetic mix of massive riffs and powerfully catchy melodies that’s lured fans to The Struts’ live shows. While the glitz and flash are huge draws, there’s more at work.“The main mission of the band is to bring back that feeling of fun and rock & roll, especially to all those people who are bored by what’s going on these days,” says Spiller.
The Lone Bellow — born in a Brooklyn cafe — has created a sound that mixes folk sincerity, gospel fervor, even metal while never letting go of harmony. The trio — Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin — came together in 2010 at Dizzy’s Diner where Williams’ friend Elmquist was working a shift. Williams wanted to rehearse some new songs and also asked Pipkin to join them. It turned out to be more than a jam. “Our voices feel like they were made to sing together,” says Pipkin. The trio’s exuberant self-titled debut album released in 2013 and got wide recognition (Entertainment Weekly said it was “One of the top reasons to love country music in 2013”). Last year’s release of “Then Came the Morning” has also garnered notice. NPR said, “The Lone Bellow's music has always had a larger-than-life flamboyance about it, but on ‘Then Came The Morning,’ it's elevated by nuance that ventures frequently and welcomely into grace.”
The uplifting spirit that you find in Lunch Money Lewis comes through lyrically and sonically in the music he’s created with his primary collaborators, songwriter Jacob Kasher (AKA JKash) and producer Ricky Reed (Wallpaper), for veteran hitmaker Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records. Songs like first single “Bills,” “Mama,” and “Love Me Back” are toe-tapping, feel-good tunes that recall the Philly soul of Gamble and Huff and the Southern gospel of Stax. The Miami native was raised in a musical family of Jamaican descent and grew up listening to reggae and Motown, as well as to James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Prince, and The O’Jays. His ability and writing and performing has given him further ambition. “I know what I want to say now,” he says. “I know who I am, in a weird little way, and I want to write about honest things with real emotion.”
Toronto producer/singer/songwriter and electronic whiz Coleman Hell writes and produces all of his music on keyboards and programs. For example, his breakout hit “2 Heads” features a banjo that’s actually a sample played on a keyboard. He released the single last year on his own, telling radio.com, “I put it out just by myself with no support or anything and it just immediately took off. I think it got at least ten million streams before a label stepped in.” That label is Columbia Records, which is releasing his first full-length album this year. Hell (and he says that’s his real name) has been partnering with the artist collective sideways, a songwriting, production, design and video group. “The key is the music has to come from great songs,” he says. “I always want to write, good, honest songs -- but deliver them in an unconventional way."
Memphian Julien Baker has performed with the band Forrister (formerly The Star Killers), but Middle Tennessee State University took her away and she started doing solo work. She’s shown a gift for telling deep and dark stories that find remarkable expression with her haunting guitar playing. Baker went to Richmond, Virginia to record a number of her new songs at Spacebomb Studios. The tracks from this session were circulated among Baker's friends, meeting high praise and lots of encouragement for the songs to see a proper release. Soon, she found a home on 6131 Records' increasingly diverse roster, and last year released the full length “Sprained Ankle.” Reaction has been approving: Pitchfork said: “She's a minimalist, playing bassy clusters of melodic thirds, flicking silvery harmonics, palm-muting chords. It's gorgeously recorded.” Her hypnotic guitar playing and confessional lyrics are gut wrenching and heartfelt.
Blues guitarist Walter Trout’s latest LP “Battle Scars” is his 42nd album, including his pre-solo-career recordings as a member of the legendary groups Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Trout fell in love with the blues in 1965 when his brother introduced him to the first album of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Trout heard the twin-guitar magic of Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, combined with Butterfield's harmonica-and-vocal performances. Trout founded his own band in 1989 and cut his debut album “Life In the Jungle,” rapidly becoming a star in Europe. His first U.S. release, 1998's critically heralded “Walter Trout,” also established him in the American blues-rock scene. “Battle Scars” is an unflinching look at Trout’s difficult battle with liver failure and his agonizing wait for a transplant. Tough as it was, the resulting album is a triumph of creativity and virtuosity.
To say Ana Popović is formidable might be understating the matter. The multiple Blues Music Award nominee, born in Belgrade, Serbia, started playing guitar at age 15 and in the 1990s formed the band Hush. Her rocket started rising in 1998 when she went to the Netherlands to study guitar, in 1999 when she form her own band, in 2000 when she appeared on a Jimi Hendrix tribute album, and in 2001 with her solo debut album, recorded in Memphis. Two of her albums reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Blues Chart — 2007’s “Still Making History” and 2011’s “Unconditional.” This year, Ana is releasing “Trilogy,” three albums in one — 25 tunes where she sings and shreds. The Beale Street Music Festival veteran has toured for years taking the blues to the four corners of the globe, but in 2012, Ana moved to Memphis. Which is where formidable blues talents go.
Chicago-born Bernard Allison uses the same guitar his late father Luther Allison tore up the blues with, but it goes further. He’s got his father’s soulful voice, spiritual devotion and a musical freedom to experiment with the blues. He first appeared on a record at 13 on a live LP of his father’s. He’d hooked up an amp and guitar in the basement of their home and started playing his dad’s first record note for note. “He freaked out and said tonight you’re gonna record with me.” Later he would join Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine for three years. He would expand his talent touring and recording and improving his art at every step. He’s grounded in the past and able to push his blues forward. Bernard is a showman and spontaneous enough to keep it fresh and the audiences cheering.
Luther Dickinson’s musicianship and abilities are all his own, but you can’t talk about him without mentioning his father, producer/singer/songwriter/Jim Dickinson. Nor can you leave out the North Mississippi Allstars he formed with brother Cody. Dickinson became close with the musical families of Otha Turner, R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, which eventually led to forming the Allstars (a group with three Grammy nominations). He joined the Black Crowes for a time and recorded with them. His recent solo double album, “Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook) Vol. I & II,” he breathes life into 21 tunes from his life and career, songs he wrote or learned from friends and family or were passed down from those musical families. He says, “The idea was to re-record everything very stripped down—very acoustic and honest and folky—to accompany the songbook.” His plan is that this project will not stop with Volume II. Stay tuned.
Producer and songwriter Doyle Bramhall II has a blues-grounded career growing up in a musical home (his dad, drummer Doyle Bramhall, played drums for blues legends Lightning Hopkins and Freddie King) and getting his start collaborating with his friends Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan. When Doyle was 18, he was recruited by Jimmie Vaughan to play with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bramhall II’s reputation blossomed and two years later, he co-founded the Arc Angels. Bramhall II’s distinctive guitar work—he is a left handed player who plays a right handed strung guitar flipped upside down—left a mark on Clapton albums such as “Me And Mr. Johnson” and “Searching For Robert J.” He’s also collaborated with Sheryl Crow (producing “100 Miles From Memphis”), Tedeschi Trucks, Elton John, Questlove, Gary Clark Jr., Erykah Badu, Gregg Allman, Robert Randolph, T-Bone Burnett, Meshell Ndegeocello, Dr. John and many others.
In recent years, Big Star co-founder and drummer Jody Stephens found himself performing with guitarist Luther Russell, formerly with the Freewheelers. The connection happened when Stephens was asked to perform Big Star songs being used in the 2013 documentary “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.” Both found the collaboration fruitful and they formally introduced their new group Those Pretty Wrongs to the world at last year’s SXSW. The singles "Lucky Guy" and "Fool of Myself” were released shortly after, both recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, which was where Big Star recorded. Now that the other members of Big Star have died, there is very much a spirit that remains at Ardent, but there’s something more. The recordings used the old guitars of the late Chris Bell, and Stephens used the same kit he’d played on in Big Star recordings in the 1970s.
Little Rock rockers Amasa Hines came together in 2010 and started getting impressive notice for its strong musicianship. In 2012 it was named as one of "12 Arkansas Bands You Should Be Listening to Now" by Paste Magazine, it was designated “Reader's Choice for best band in Arkansas” by the Arkansas Times and in 2014 the septet was named one of "10 Southern Rock Bands to Listen to Now" by Southern Living Magazine. Amasa Hines — which describes its genre as “Psychedelic Afro-Futurism — released an album in 2014: “All the World There Is,” that has garnered favorable reviews. The Fayetteville Flyer characterizes the band this way: “It’s danceable psychedelia. It grooves. It’s smart. It’s indie rock that boogies, with more than a hint of soul.”
Will Tucker has proven he’s worth the gamble with the recent release of his album "Worth the Gamble.” Of course Tucker’s not really that much of a gamble — the 22-year-old regular performer at B. B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street was playing drums at age five, piano at eight, and guitar at twelve. By now, the popular performer has been onstage with such luminaries as Charlie Musselwhite, G. Love and Special Sauce, and the Beach Boys with John Stamos. He’s also a veteran performer at the Beale Street Music Festival and has been part of the international travel show, "Music Voyager - Tennessee," with the legendary Bobby "Blue" Bland.”
Escondido is Nashville, TN based artists Jessica Maros and Tyler James. Recorded live in a single day, their debut album, The Ghost of Escondido, was self-released in 2013 to critical acclaim. Their David Lynch approved sound became the soundtrack to multiple films and TV shows including HBO's Girls and Sex Tape and led to appearances on CONAN and ABC's Nashville. Following tours with the likes of Lord Huron, Wild Cub, and Islands, the duo recently completed their follow-up album, Walking With A Stranger, due out early 2016.
For Alex da Ponte, there’s been something of a change of heart. A few years ago she recorded an album called “Nightmares” and it was, in fact, pretty dark. But now her latest, released this year, is more affirming. The Memphis musician’s new album is “All My Heart” with the single “Nevermind” that da Ponte had faith in. She went to a meeting with a Blue Barrel Records executive, played a fuzzy demo recorded on an iPhone voice memo and said to him confidently, “this is the hit.” As she puts it, “I've learned in life that I can make things happen for myself." The album — recorded at Music+Arts Studio in Memphis — is honest, biting and fresh, with da Ponte’s distinctive voice at the center. The Memphis band behind her includes Rick Steff and Roy Berry on keys and drums (Lucero), Geoff Smith on bass (Star & Micey), Jonathan Kirkscey and Jessie Munson on cello and violin and Robby Davis on guitar.
Based out of Memphis, Tennessee, The Band CAMINO is the result of collaboration between Jeffery Jordan, Spencer Stewart, Graham Rowell, and Andrew Isbell. In addition to studying music at the University of Memphis, they are busy working on their first EP and garnering fans through local venues and social media. Their sound draws influence from the leaders of the rock scene (The 1975, Colony House, Walk The Moon, and the Killers). Their first demo, YØUNG (released fall 2015), can be found on Soundcloud and the music video for YØUNG can be found on YouTube. They plan to release their debut record in the Spring of 2016.
Blues harmonica virtuoso John Németh fell in love with the genre in Boise, Idaho, starting out fronting a teen band and eventually getting five Blues Music Award nominations in 2013 alone. With influences the likes of Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, he pursued performing around the Boise club scene until he recorded his 2004 solo debut, “Come And Get It,” featuring guitarist Junior Watson. In 2013 he moved from the Bay Area to Memphis, because, he says, “it is the epicenter for soul and blues.” There he hooked up with producer and musician Scott Bomar and has been working with him and the Bo-Keys. Németh’s innovative album “Memphis Grease,” followed his fourth solo studio release, 2010’s “Name The Day!” As Németh says, “We’re creating fresh music here. Our arrangements sound just like they would back then, but what we’re doing is so much more innovative.”
Old meets new and creates something newer: When J Geils Band harmonica player Magic Dick heard young guitar player Shun, he knew something good was going to come of it. The guitarist, born in Chicago and raised in Singapore, came back to the United States and attended Berklee College of Music. He was knocking out “Whammer Jammer,” Magic Dick’s signature performance, when they met. The relationship began as a mentor/mentee bond, and now the two are close friends and colleagues. Shun’s influences are Indian, Chinese, soul and classical music, while Magic Dick has long been a bebop fan with a special affinity for trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. The acoustic duo performs and records regularly, having toured as part of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue with Buddy Guy, Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint. They perform primarily classic jazz and blues works and the audiences have been eating it up.
Soul/blues player Charles Wilson was raised in Chicago, began performing at age seven and sang as a teenager in Chicago area nightclubs. His break came when he got to go on the road with Bobby Rush. Wilson’s first single in 1964 was "Trying To Make A Wrong Thing Right.” His next single, ”You Cut Off My Love Supply,” solidified his reputation. His first album, "Blues In The Key Of C,” came out in 1991. Eventually he would sign with Ecko Records. His first big hit was “Love Seat” in 1996. Later, he started his own label, Wilson Records and would then go on to record “If Heartaches Were Nickels” for Denmark Records with his uncle Little Milton and Carl Weatherby on guitar. The album earned Wilson a W. C. Handy nomination for "Best Soul/Blues Album" of 2004.
Canadian guitarist Jack Semple grew up on a farm near Regina, Saskatchewan and started off playing with various local bands. He moved to Toronto to join The Lincolns, a funk/R&B band. He left the band after two years, returned to Regina and did solo work. He’s done TV scores and acted in the title role of “Guitarman,” a 1994 television movie. Semple also commenced a solo recording career that has resulted in the release of ten albums. In 1992, he won the MuchMusic "Guitar Wars" contest. He was nominated, in 1999 and 2000, for a Gemini Award for his soundtrack work on the television series “Incredible Story Studio.” Semple won a Juno award in 1991 for best roots recording. He now performs as a solo artist and with The Jack Semple Band.
For 25 years, blues guitarist and singer Larry McCray has been turning out powerful tunes that have won attention and awards. The Arkansas-born, Michigan-based singer, guitarist, bandleader and songwriter cites influences of B.B. King, Freddie King and Albert King, all of whom he's met and played with. His 1991 debut album was “Ambition” for Point Blank Records which led to touring with label-mate Albert Collins. His latest album, last year’s “The Gibson Sessions,” knows how to rock. “The blues is my favorite, for sure,” he says “I get more out of it, feeling-wise, but I've always been a rock 'n' roll fan and I've always tried to write music that was rock 'n' roll friendly.” He adds that “The Gibson Sessions” is as much a Larry McCray album as “Ambition” or any of the others that came after.
“The Real Deal” is the title of John Primer’s album, and this is how real he is: As a kid in Camden, Mississippi, he played a homemade guitar built on the wall of the house with a broom wire, 2 nails, and 2 rocks to make it tight. His grandmother’s radio was playing Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Little Milton, Elmore James, BB & Albert King. He performed at church and when he was 18, went to Chicago, finding work with his first band. He would go on to play with Chicago blues stalwarts Sammy Lawhorn, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Lonnie Brooks. In 1979 he joined the Chicago All Stars and toured the world, developing his singular style. For 14 years, he toured with Magic Slim & The Teardrops, and in 1995 the veteran bluesman released his major label debut “The Real Deal.”
Brandon Santini’s devotion to blues harmonica grew out of a combination of love for traditional blues and a hunger to perform contemporary playing that compares to James Cotton or Paul Butterfield. Raised in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, Brandon was 15 when he bought his first harmonica in 1997. He founded the band Delta Highway in 2003 and relocated to Memphis where he absorbed the sounds and culture of the Delta and North Mississippi Hill Country, honing his craft and playing clubs on Beale Street. His third album, released last year, is “Live & Extended!” recorded at Quebec’s le Petit Impérial. As he likes to say, “It’s all about the vibe of your surroundings. With a great live audience fueling you it’s a lot more inspiring and allows you to give more to the audience.”
Memphis-based Ghost Town Blues Band was a 2015 Nominee for Best Blues Band in the Blues Blast Music Awards and a runner-up in the 2014 International Blues Challenge. Its live show, which has been touring the U.S. and Canada, features a second-line horn entrance, cigar box guitars and electric push brooms to Allman Brothers style jams and their rapping trombone player. GTBB is a modern blues band with an intimate knowledge of blues, rock and improvisational jams. The band can turn on a dime from North Mississippi hill country grooves to classic electric urban blues and Funky Meters and Southern roots style jams. Frontman Matt Isbell is joined by Preston McEwen (drums), Matt Karner (bass), Taylor Orr (guitar), Suavo Jones (trombone) and Jeremy Powell (keyboard).
Barbara Blue — called the Queen of Beale Street — was born and raised in Pittsburgh and is thoroughly steeped in the blues. As a kid, she taught herself to play guitar and in the ‘80s had her own band, but was playing all kinds of music. A guitarist in a country band she was in told her focus on singing the blues and she would eventually form the City Limits Blues Band. Blue told the Memphis Blues Society newsletter that she came to the Beale Street Music Festival in 1997 with a friend. On her visit, she went to Beale Street and dropped in at Silky O’Sullivan’s where she paid $5 to sing a song. She did, and Silky said, “Can you do that again?” She did and by the end of the evening, Silky had offered her a job. She’s been singing there ever since.
Senatobia, Mississippi-born Duwayne Burnside grew up hearing his father, famous bluesman R.L. Burnside, and family, as well as neighbors play music — guitar driven Mississippi hill country blues. He learned guitar and played behind his father as well as local club owner Junior Kimbrough and the Soul Blues Boys. He’d also go to nearby Memphis to sit in with such luminaries as Little Jimmy King, Albert King, B.B. King, Bobby Blue Band and others. In 1998, he went to Los Angeles to record his first full length record “Live at the Mint.” He came back to the Mid-South and in 2001 sat in with the North Mississippi Allstars and immediately started working with the group, touring and recording “Polaris.” He continues to perform in the area.
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is the embodiment of raw country blues and is regarded as the last of the Bentonia Bluesmen. Jimmy is the last person taught to play the blues by Henry Stuckey, the man who taught Skip James and Jack Owens, and his music evokes the dry, ghostly sounds of his mentors. He is a celebrated and award winning country blues musician who has released several award winning CDs. His first CD, “Back to Bentonia” won the Living Blues award for Best Debut and Best Acoustic Blues Album of the Year for 2006. His other CDs have also received critical acclaim, including being named a top ten blues album by National Public Radio. Jimmy’s music has been described as “imbued with earthy beauty” by Blues in Britain Magazine, “ethereal, stark and emotional” by blues author Robert Gordon and “dark and emotionally honest” by Blues Review Magazine.
Terry “Harmonica” Bean showed an early affinity for the blues growing up in Pontotoc, Mississippi, where his father, Eddie Bean, hosted informal gatherings at the family’s house. Terry worked as a sharecropper and showed promise as a baseball pitcher until he decided to focus on the blues in 1988. For three years he traveled to Greenville, Mississippi on weekends to play harmonica with James "T-Model" Ford and Asie Payton. Soon he had his own outfit, the Terry Harmonica Bean Blues Band performing at clubs and festivals around the South. Since 2002, he’s released six self-produced CDs that show his passion for the older styles of blues. “What’s stimulating to me,” he says, “is people hearing the blues played like they used to hear it.”
Blind Mississippi Morris has frequently played the Beale Street Music Festival, a tribute to his constant efforts to keep the blues alive. The Clarksdale, Mississippi native got a harmonica from his aunt and uncle when he was young and he’s been working it ever since. He was named by Bluzharp magazine as one of the 10 best harmonica players in the world and he got a Premier Player Grammy Award twice for Harmonica Player of the Year. He’s recorded with Muddy Waters, performed with Bill Wyman and opened shows for B.B. King in Louisville, Kentucky and Omaha, Nebraska. He’s been playing the Delta blues professionally for 50 years and has toured extensively in Europe.
Larry “Washboard Shorty” Long and Reverend Robert (aka Bobby Reynolds) have teamed up with many of the blues greats over the years to perform classic Delta blues sounds. Rev. Robert — once named a national slide guitar champion — mines the prewar blues approach of the legendary Robert Johnson and Charley Patton while also playing ragtime and early jazz, Hawaiian, African and Caribbean styles. Long is a drummer, guitarist, washboardist and vocalist out of Terre Haute, Indiana. Last year, the two joined forces with Blind Mississippi Morris, calling themselves Three Piece & Biscuit, at the Washboard Music Festival in Ohio.
Leo “Bud” Welch Sr. — born in Sabougla, Mississippi in 1932 — first picked up a guitar when he was 12. Finally in 2014, he put out his first album. It wasn’t for want of trying: he worked that guitar and got good enough to play in public at 15. He was once offered an audition by B. B. King, but couldn’t afford the trip to Memphis. But he persisted, playing the blues and gospel. He’s made his living as a logger in North Mississippi, playing whenever he can for whoever would listen. It paid off two months before his 82nd birthday when he released his debut album, “Sabougla Voices” and he followed it up last year with his second LP, “I Don’t Prefer No Blues.”
Belzoni, Mississippi, native Bill Abel has been a fixture in the Delta and Hill Country for the past couple of decades, playing solo or backing some of the treasures of the Delta blues such as Cadillac John Nolden, T-Model Ford and the late Paul ‘Wine’ Jones. He’s also recorded with Hubert Sumlin, Odell Harris, Sam Carr and Nolden among others. In his latest release “One-Man Band,” Abel plays solo, but on as many instruments as he can. He plays both lead and rhythm on a multitude of guitar setups, switching between electric guitar, dobro, and his own homemade cigar-box guitars while playing hi-hat and snare with one foot and bass drum with another, all the while accompanying himself vocally. What you get is a memorable and undiluted adaptation of electric blues rooted deep in the Mississippi delta tradition.