Featured photo: The duo Roses & Cigarettes. Photo credit: Rachel Louise.
The market for indie roots music is growing by the moment and spans folk, blues, rock, and beyond. In the spirit of the burgeoning scene, The Young Folks brings to you its own monthly “Roots Roundup” showcase.
Running diametrically beside the mass industry of modern pop are a legion of artists worldwide who write and perform in the style of their ancestors, sowing the seeds of a roots revival. While roots music often calls to its traditional folk ties, it has since widened its umbrella to commonly include Americana and roots rock within its scope. Expand from here to offer due respect to a spectrum of contemporary jazz and blues-leaning endeavors, as well as a nod to world styles, and you have the foundation of what makes up the newest Young Folks music feature: Roots Roundup.
By serendipity, here we are at 2019’s halfway mark already! While future renditions of Roots Roundup may see the number of featured artists shift, our first feature packs a selection of 10 names spanning between folk, blues, and beyond. Given that we’re already here at June with our debut piece, too, selections made will span the past six months of 2019 releases.
With a penchant for championing indie artists, rarely will Roots Roundup pieces focus on names already greatly known within their respective realms. While Mavis Staples, Rhiannon Giddens, and Willie Nelson are all turning out great music in 2019, they’re standard-bearers for soul, folk, and country who need no introduction.
Adam Townsend – All My Fires
Adam Townsend just dropped his debut album, All My Fires, at the start of June, kicking things off with a grand release show at Tucson’s Club Congress on the 7th. The deceptively easygoing nature with which he approaches the soulful undertones of his rock-leaning tunes make him a steady favorite of the Old Pueblo music scene. Standing adjacent to proven singer-songwriters like Ray LaMontagne and Rayland Baxter, big things are coming for this thriving indie tunesmith.
Charlie Marie – Self-titled EP
Charlie Marie’s firebrand means of songwriting bring to mind shades of classic country outlaws and Americana staples this side of Brandi Carlile alike. Marie is multi-faceted, knowing how to leave differing marks with her crystalline timbre. A penchant for trailblazing independence sets the scene for a memorable opener in “Rhinestones” before she turns around with the aching croon of “Rodeo”, evoking a sentiment as classically as Patsy Cline could’ve sold it while seeking something new in its textured arrangement.
The Crane Wives – “Sowing Seeds”
They’ve released a bunch of stellar singles in quick succession this year, but the Michigan-based collective’s latest is “Sowing Seeds”. Featuring tight harmonies and some killer bass-lines, the Crane Wives become a moody roots rock ensemble with their newest tune. If this is something around the vicinity of what a new LP will be sounding like, we can’t wait for it.
Her Crooked Heart – To Love to Leave to Live
Someway, somehow, this stunning piece of work marked Her Crooked Heart’s debut full-length release earlier this year. The band began to make their mark around the time that they dropped their 2017 EP, To Gentlemen, and follow it up with marvelous results. The songs that comprise To Love to Leave to Live detail frontwoman Rachel Ries’ life story in the frame of one cinematic arrangement after the other. It’s something multi-faceted, ever-shifting, and full of the sort of captivating heart that you couldn’t mass produce between a team of 20 careerist songwriters in a week.
Jontavious Willis – Spectacular Class
Following in the footsteps of Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’, Jontavious Willis is one young man working tirelessly to keep the blues alive. A strong guitarist and vibrant, soul-laden personality, Willis is has met the promise of the country blues that decorated his 2016 debut, Blue Metamorphosis, effortlessly slipping into the sort-of true grit that enthusiasts often long for.
Kelly Hunt – Even the Sparrow
Like many a great folk songwriter, Kelly Hunt has a rambling story to back her up. The daughter of an opera singer and saxophonist, she trailed from Memphis to Kansas City while offering her hand to many trades along the way, including acting, breadmaking, and medicine. Music, for the most part, was her private getaway, until recently. The release of Even the Sparrow marks just about two years’ worth of effort writing and recording, framing traditional banjo music in a striking contemporary light.
Nathan & Jessie – You’re the Star
Perhaps Nathan & Jessie’s equable charms are the product of their self-proclaimed chronic condition for travel, having garnered a bit of extra savvy from here, there, and everywhere in-between. The folk duo are savants of their craft, weaving elements of infectious gypsy jazz into the center of their latest LP, You’re the Star. It’s all as good as the positively delightful title tune and its music video, which you can peep above.
Roses & Cigarettes – Echoes & Silence
During their brief tenure as an Americana duo on the rise, Roses & Cigarettes sure rose quickly. Between Jenny Pagliaro’s powerful vocals and Angela Petrilli’s knack for nailing classic Californian riffs, the invigorating atmosphere that they instantly summoned with their music saw them sharing the stage and studio with the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Marc Broussard, Amanda Shires, and more. While Pagliaro unfortunately passed away just over a month after the release of Echoes & Silence, the trail that she and Petrilli have blazed will be remembered by Americana forever.
Steve Haines and the Third Floor Orchestra – Self-titled LP
Canadian composer Steve Haines has been working on his recent release since the summer of 2016, when he decided to wrap his head around writing for an orchestra. What we’ve been left with is a scintillating collection of songs–a swath of covers renovated to fit a broad new basis, as well as two Haines originals. Marked as having “discovered lyrics” in midlife, Haines’ collective bring to life an ardor that contemporary audiences would perhaps find unexpected of this oft classically-leaning jazz. As for their covers, you haven’t heard them like this before, and that’s a compliment.
Willard Gayheart – At Home in the Blue Ridge
As Dori Freeman makes her mark in Appalachian Americana, she remarks with in a lighthearted way that her audiences often specifically request “Ern & Zorry’s Sneakin’ Bitin’ Dog”–not one of her own, but instead a cover of her grandfather’s. At 87, the Virgnian frame shop owner has released his debut solo album right on time. Simply put, it’s a collection of unvarnished American folk music at its finest, and an easy in for one of your humble writer’s personal favorites of the entire year.
Winnow – “Minnesota Cold”
Joey Frendo and Jared Meeuwenberg are Winnow, the latest project between the two long-time friends and collaborators. The duo’s rugged grit recalls the picturesque seasons of their Michigan home, following in the footsteps of other blue collar roots rockers this side of Jason Isbell and Dawes. Winnow is the culmination of years of blood and sweat put into developing their presence in the Americana scene, as well as the vehicle that might well propel them to the top of it.