New folk, roots, Americana - whatever name you wish to affix to the genre, it's certainly an unprecedented time for emotional people with acoustic guitars.
Every generation has had their share of heartfelt folkies, sure, but the current crop of young people strumming and humming is displaying a serious passion for and resurgence of the form. And, the public is listening. Between the mainstream successes of artists like Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, and Philip Phillips, nu-grass, phonetically-filigreed folk, and everything in between, it's become an inescapable part of our daily lives. The stuff is bleeding from the ceiling-mounted speakers of grocery stores, oozing out jukeboxes in young bars, and your girlfriend cries to it when you're not home because you liked a bunch of your ex's status on Facebook last week.
However, you're probably only scratching the surface. Beyond the big hits of radio folk, there is a bountiful cornucopia of Americana-minded individuals, a veritable horn of plenty of greatness that you may be ignoring. The Lumineers, future titans of folky goodness, will be performing in Boca Raton this month. So as you bone up on your "Ho Hey" lyrics, we'd also like to hope that you, our esteemed readership, want to dig deeper into the current Americana scene in preparation for the show. You can start conversations, impress people with your suggestions of other artists, and expand your horizons at the same time. So, for the sake of our own snobbery and thanks to our benevolence, here are our top five Americana artists you might be missing out on.
5. First Aid Kit
This duo of Swedish sisters pens songs equally heart-wrenching and clever, delivers them with delicate, gossamer vocals, and made the music blog world swoon with "Emmylou" off of 2012's The Lion's Roar. No frills or gimmicks, just beautifully rendered Americana by way of Scandinavia.
4. Rusty Willoughby
Willoughby has been a bit of a musical chameleon since his days as a member of the bands Pure Joy and Flop, but has settled nicely into a role as one of the most underrated contemporary folk crooners. Unfettered production, warm sounds, smart lyrics, and Willoughby's excellent melodic sense earn him our highest praise. The above video, featuring Rachel Flotard and Maggie Bjorklund, is a prime example of Willoughby's prowess.
3. Jason Isbell
Isbell was a major force as a member of the Drive By Truckers and has blossomed into a full realized solo artist since departing the band in 2007. Though Isbell tends to lean toward the rockin' end of the American spectrum, he manages to always lace his albums with a few intimate acoustic numbers that speak to the best of classic country music, blues, and folk.
2. M. Ward
Ward might be best known as the Him in She & Him, the musical project that has elevated actress Zooey Deschanel into the spotlight as a singer in addition to her work being cute, but kind of annoying (but still pretty cute) on screen. Ward's solo career is far more palatable in our opinion, sitting somewhere between the noir of a young Tom Waits and the twang of a late '40s country western troubadour.
1. A.A. Bondy
Formerly known as the guitarist of Verbena, Bondy has become an underground favorite for people with a taste for the darker end of folk. Certainly not the positive whoa-oh-oh's of radio folk, Bondy's dour tone is always provided with grace, and the singer-songwriter is responsible for some truly fantastic lyrics.
Lumineers. With Dr. Dog and Nathaniel Rateliff. 6:45 p.m., on Sunday, October 20, at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, 12551 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Tickets cost $35 with fees.
Call 561-488-8069, or visit ticketmaster.com.
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