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.
A gifted young guitar player and singer-songwriter with a distinctively lovely voice, Bhi Bhiman is poised for major success in 2012. Though he's been billed as "a Sri Lankan Woody Guthrie," Bhiman has more American roots than that title suggests, having grown up on '90s alt-rock in St. Louis before moving to San Francisco, where he is currently based.
The Suicide Commandos were punk before it was punk. The legendary local trio was playing "New York Rock" in ballrooms, bars, and high schools all over Twin Cities and Minnesota after they formed in 1975. In their four years as a band, they released two 7" EPs and a full-length in 1977 called "Make A Record."
El Camino is a tight and efficient album with 11 songs clocking in at 38 minutes. The songs are well written and chock-full of the band's trademark gritty grooves.
Late last August, TV on the Radio were in the Twin Cities for a couple of shows at First Avenue.
L.A.-based Dawes has only been around a few years, but in that short time they've skyrocketed to the top of the folk-rock scene, especially with the release of their second album "Nothing Is Wrong." As an artist on ATO Records, they have harnessed plenty of inspiration with labelmates like My Morning Jacket, Drive-By Truckers and Gomez by their side.