The Boston Boys (Boston) – Led by North Carolinian mandolinist and Berklee grad Eric Robertson, The Boston Boys have recently taken the roots and Americana music (with a notable progressive twist) of Robertson’s homeland to unlikely places. Last year, the band was selected as one of seven bands in the country to perform for President Obama’s re-election campaign, each band playing an event in a different major U.S. city. This fall, the band began a tour of the Middle East, playing at venues and festivals of all kinds (see their Facebook photos here). The Boston Boys released a five-song EP in July called What You Say?! (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), which meshes progressive and polished instrumentation with poppy vocals.
The Parson Red Heads (Portland) – Featured on the recently released Lowe Country (Amazon MP3 & Spotify) compilation of songs written by British singer-songwriter Nick Lowe, Portland’s indie-psyche folk band The Parson Red Heads has toured with the likes of Blitzen Trapper and Everest. The band released Murmurations (Amazon MP3 & Spotify) in March, an album that regrettably slid past my desk. These six tracks carry the sound of a modern Fleetwood Mac with brilliant harmonies and great songwriting.
Keenan O’Meara (Brooklyn) – A few months ago, a friend and I were wandering around for a good people watching spot on a Friday night in the East Village. It was then that we stumbled upon Brooklyn-based alternative folk musician Keenan O’Meara playing a set upstairs at Pianos. The native of Maryland and graduate of Berklee released Mania (Bandcamp) in June. The album is more folk than alternative, with O’Meara’s soulful Frontier-Ruckus-esque vocals set against a mix of guitar and banjo strumming and arpeggios, the occasional cello and a few drums, all by the well-trained musicians that wooed my friend and me that night.
Joe Purdy (Los Angeles) – It wasn’t until this past summer at Woody Guthrie’s 100th Birthday at City Winery that I really noticed the unique talent of Texan Joe Purdy. Purdy’s album, This American (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), released two years ago this month, was the primary soundtrack of a road trip last week from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon to Vegas. I did listen to other stuff in this trip of nearly ten hours of driving, but I kept switching back to Purdy. He’s the quintessential Americana troubadour of our time and his music carries a traditional spirit of American adventure.
Jason Isbell (Muscle Shoals, AL) – Performing this Friday at the Bowery Ballroom, Muscle Shoals, AL-native and Americana Award-winning songwriter Jason Isbell last month released his first full-length live album. Recorded in August during two sold out shows at Workplay in Birmingham and Crossroads in Huntsville (just a few miles from his home town), Live from Alabama (Amazon MP3 & Spotify) features his band, the 400 Unit, and a mix of songs from throughout Isbell’s career. The album closes with a great rendition of Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane.” As I’ve mentioned before, Isbell’s voice (along with Darrell Scott’s) is one of the very best in Americana today.
Elizabeth LaPrelle (Rural Retreat, VA) – Today, NPR Music uncovered an Appalachian gem in Rural Retreat, a town off of Interstate 81 in the southwest corner of my home state (or Commonwealth rather) of Virginia. Elizabeth LaPrelle, one of the young singers involved in a project called The New Young Fogies, is emerging as the project’s star Appalachian voice. Also a old time radio host in the fiddle mecca of Floyd, LaPrelle’s style transcends time and intoxicates the listener with a feeling of old. Check out Bird’s Advice (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), LaPrelle’s album of old mountain songs released last year.