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Thursday, June 18, 2015


FIVE BANDS - Vol. 1 - My Top 5 Favorite New Finds

Years ago, I wrote a column for a website called  It was called Five Bands and each post would feature five artists who fit some theme.  It was one of my favorite things to write about so I'm resurrecting it.   

When Mike sent my head spinning with that Bloodshot Records compilation, I came home and started digging deep into their catalog and for every artist I found on their label, I found two or sometimes three more connected to Bloodshot in some way but on another label. The result was a staggering amount of new (to me) artists that I’m still exploring.

For this inaugural Five Bands, let’s talk about the five artists who blew my mind more than any others over the last two years.

1. Lydia Loveless

More Like Them

Lydia Loveless does not sing modern country music. She does not sing traditional country music. She’s hard to define and that’s exactly why I love her. She has the voice of a seasoned country superstar packaged in the body of a punk rock loving teenager and the results are pure, unadulterated magic. That she writes her own material makes it even better. That she’ll cover a song like Elvis Costello’s “Alison” for her Record Store Day release ups the ante even more. Each new album has been five steps better than the last one but my personal favorite is Indestructible Machine.  I cannot wait to see where she ends up being in the pantheon of music in 20 years. Check out “More Like Them” to get a taste.  It's equal parts Neko Case and The Replacements, plus if you listen to the lyrics you’ll hear her examining her real life issue of social anxiety in a way that’s smart and even funny in places. 

2. Patty Griffin


Truth #2

This one is a much more traditional sound.  That voice of Lydia Loveless that I spoke about? Patty Griffin has it also but it’s packaged in the seasoned mind and body of an expert in her craft. She writes songs that tell stories in ways that I couldn’t tell if given 10,000 words. If you don’t believe me, just listen to “Chief” or “Making Pies” from the album 1000 Kisses. That it took me this long to discover her makes me sad, and the way I found her was so out of the ordinary it was pure luck. 

I’d heard a song by The Dixie Chicks called “Truth #2”. I went to look up the album it was from and found they didn’t write it. Who is this Patty Griffin person? So I go to look for the song on iTunes and it looks like she never recorded it. That’s odd because it’s an amazing song. I dig a little deeper and soon I find that this song is from a lost album she recorded for A&M and they shelved. So then I pull out the big freakin’ steam shovel and scoop down further to finally find a bootleg copy of the studio album. The rest is history and accounts for about sixty songs on my iPod. The good news is that album (Silver Bell) finally got an official release so you can find a much better mix on iTunes now. Check out “Truth #2” and tell me that chorus isn’t pure genius. Then check out any of her other fine albums. You won’t be disappointed. 

3. Findlay

Off & On

A freakin’ car commercial helped me discover this band. My family is an Olympics obsessed family. Every two years, we’re glued to the television and internet while the games are on and that means we can’t avoid the commercial. During the 2014 Winter Olympics, the song “Off & On” was played probably 5,000 times in a commercial for either BMW or Mercedes or something. That’s not important. I can’t endorse the car. What I can endorse is you finding their EP Off & On. It’s the only thing they’ve officially released so far and I love all four songs on it. The stop, slow, speed up, sprint pace of the title track is what sold me but there’s so much great stuff here. Also, for what it's worth this is the only band on this list that my daughter also endorses. 

4. Dave Alvin

Signal Hill

He was the guitar player in The Blasters and the writer of their biggest hit “Marie Marie”. That song has become iconic and has transcended musical styles and genres. He’s got a distinctive voice but what sets him apart in my mind is his songwriting. Like Patty Griffin he can tell a story musically that rivals the greatest novelists of all time. Plus his catalog goes all the way back to 1987 so there’s a ton here to explore. He wrote one of my favorite late-period X songs (”4th of July”) as well as one of my favorite Dwight Yoakam songs (”Long White Cadillac”). Check out “Signal Hill”, a bruiser of a song from the extended edition of the album Eleven Eleven.  It's about lost dreams and losers in a town my old band used to play regularly.

5. Bobby Bare Jr.

Let's Rock and Roll

And here’s the artist who sent me down that Bloodshot rabbit hole. The son of an iconic country artist, Bobby Bare Jr. defies description. His song “Let’s Rock and Roll” is equal parts nursery rhyme, noise fest and pop song. At the same time, it’s the most accurate portrayal of an unknown artist playing music on the road I’ve ever heard. His album Boo-Tay under the Bare Jr. moniker is alt-country awesome, while his solo albums defy labeling but are even better. Below is the video for the song that would not leave my head after watching that Bloodshot tribute. 

Thanks Mike and thank you also Bobby Bare Jr. Maybe someday I’ll be able to shake your hand and thank you in person.

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