Brandi Carlile's greatest gift is that she is an exquisite singer. She can be tough and she can be tender with ease. Her vocals are never forced. She is always in her comfort zone, without all the vocal gymnastics of many of today's pop stars.
Winnipeg duo Marti Sarbit and Rusty Matyas started writing songs and recording together just for fun without any thoughts of becoming a band in any real sense. A friend offered to manage them and a few years later they have a full length album called "Temporary Resident." Since then, they've toured across the world and opened for the Pixies.
Canadian musician Patrick Watson has been out of the limelight for a few years, strengthening a brand of chamber pop which won him the Polaris Music Prize for 2006's "Close To Paradise." Forgoing the typical studio atmosphere, Watson instead recorded new record "Adventures In Your Own Backyard" in... his backyard. The result is an album that feels less rehearsed, more intimate and still filled with soaring instrumentation that takes off into the sky.
Earlier in the week, we told you that Bill DeVille would have the chance to speak with a legend in folk and rock and roll music, Neil Young.
Justin Townes Earle shouldn't be overshadowed by his famous father Steve Earle. The two may have similar styles, but Justin modernizes what his dad began popularizing in the late '90s. His newest record "Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now" has garnered considerable accolades in the Americana scene, and there's a chance for you to win a copy of that CD from The Current this week.
California-based singer-songwriter and fiddler Sara Watkins first rose to fame as a member of the popular and prolific progressive bluegrass trio Nickel Creek in the '90s and early 2000s. Watkins is set to release her second solo album, "Sun Midnight Sun," on May 8th on Nonesuch Records.
I think this album is his finest since 1998's "Anutha Zone," which boasted guests including Paul Weller, members of Portishead, Spiritualized, Primal Scream and Supergrass. On the current album, Dr. John adds to the list of young hipsters with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who produced the album, sang a few harmonies and added his bluesy guitar to several tracks.
It's about time Yukon Blonde made its impact in the United States. For years, the Canadian band has been heralded as one of our northern neighbor's finest acts, gathering a slew of accolades by the CBC. Now the quartet is in full speed, on the heels of a their newest release "Tiger Talk" which they supported with 10 shows at South By Southwest, a major feat for any band, and the result of growing buzz from media and fans.
Why is this album essential? Because The Clash were one of the most exciting bands in the world at that time. Sandinista!, the highly anticipated follow up to their rock masterpiece London Calling, is a joyride around the world.
Duluth native Alan Sparhawk has proven that volume doesn't have a limit. His assembled team under the guise of Retribution Gospel Choir provides a striking stylistic departure from the songs he has helped compose as a member of Low. Driving guitars wash over slow-churning rock anthems - it's the perfect way to decompress after a long day.
Bluegrass quintet the Punch Brothers have been playing together for six years, but their intensely collaborative instrumental interplay and seasoned songwriting suggest a far longer period of growth.
Folky punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner can easily be compared to Billy Bragg - a mix of rebellious punk with articulate songwriting. Initially part of a post-hardcore band called "Million Dead," Frank Turner has taken those influences and combined them with the acoustic guitar.
One thing I have always enjoyed about Dr. Dog is their focus on songs. Songwriting today can sometimes seem like a lost art form. But there are plenty of classic Dr. Dog tunes on this album, full of their signature harmonies, sharp songwriting, great melody and sing-along choruses.
Now onto her third album about the aftermath of a broken relationship, Sharon Van Etten is sounding stronger than ever before.
It has been a few years since we last heard from local band The Pines, presumably because they were working hard on their newest release "Dark So Gold" and sharing the stage with master Minnesota songwriter Mason Jennings during his recent tour. In that time, The Pines has expanded sonically to unleash their most powerful, raw, and stirring compilation of songs, combining influences inspired by natural Midwest roots and time spent in Arizona to create a worthy of waiting accomplishment.