Blues, Jazz, and Roots Country: Keeping Real Music Alive

One of the genres we cover proudly on this site is “roots” music. People disagree on what that means, but to us it’s a mash up of distinctly American music that is spiritually expressive, based in strings and vocals, with authentic lyrics. Here’s a collection of this music alive and well right now:

Sam Trocki and Neon Hitch – “Walking On”
-You might call this pop blues, but it’s definitely a roots track with a core that connects with genuine emotion. The romantic message here is muted, but still important. The mix of vocals does not totally feel old time, of course, but the heart of the music is as old as the blues itself. It does Amy Winehouse proud.

Real Ponchos – “Stranger Days”
-We get a lot of jazz submissions, but approve few. This is why; when they are good they are just so good we fall in love with the coolness. The vibe here from Real Ponchos reminds me a bit of someone like Allen Stone. The groove on it is really intriguing and then the vocal comes in with a well-hewn texture. It’s a fabulous cool, classic jazz vibe that keeps me smiling.

Shawn Butzin – “Westbound Train”
-Rambling country music is a lost art. We rarely here it these days, so when we found some as quality as Shawn Butzin’s, we had to feature it here. This song is about going on an adventure for love. The rambling guitars and western swing make the song powerful classic country music. I think Bakersfield’s calling.

Tom Freund – “East of Lincoln”
-It’s impossible to listen to this track from Tom Freund and not think of another Tom… Petty. Yep, it’s that good. The easy going folk rock style here is endearing. It’s equal parts predictable and unnervingly lyrical. You’ll feel like you’ve heard this one before and then bam… Freund hits you with a lyrical turn that makes you stop and think. Good stuff.

The 502s – “Olivia”
-This is a love song – kind of. It’s also kind of a lust song, but the lyrics remind us “there’s a difference between lust and love.” The “ho hey” hand-clappy folk style is evident on this one. The horn actually wins it over for me. This is an incredibly difficult trumpet style to play and this player nails it. I would like to see this band live just to hear the trumpet solo. Yee haw!

Tom Baxter – “The Ballad of Davey Graham”
-An Americana song remembering… of all things… a British folk singer. But we won’t split hairs here. This is an outstanding performance. Give it a spin if you are a fan of exquisite guitar playing. The vocal is good, too. It has a timelessness to it that will keep people coming back to this memorial piece for years to come.

Taylor Angus – “Darkness Never Stays”
-Listen to the guitar lick in the opening of this track and you can just FEEL the seductive jazz direction. Then, after a bit, you’ll run into this lead vocal that will melt the biggest, toughest brute out there. Tapping into an emotionalism that seems more for the emo singer songwriter than a classy jazz tune like this, the song holds a ton of meaning. It’s ultimately hopeful, though, about getting through it together.

Jesse Daniel – “The Banker”
-If you old time storytelling country is your bag, give Jesse Daniel a listen and a follow. We’ve been covering him for a bit now and always get excited to see his music in our inbox. It’s kind of a macabre storyline, but… yeah… I mean we’ve all wished vengeance against the people who hoard wealth, right? Have a good time with it and sing “money ain’t worth nothin when you’re dead” with the house.

Climbing Trees – “Graves (Acoustic)”
-This introspective folk song is indicative of a lot of what we cover on this site. It’s thoughtful and engaging. The contemplative lines remind me of something Joni Mitchell might have produced. The sullen, peacefulness is striking. The guitar and the vocal are delicately balanced.

John Vincent III – “Next to You”
-When I first heard this song, I added it to two playlists and just shut up for a bit to listen. Vincent’s style is extremely intentional, causing pauses and careful listening moments. With phrasing more like poetry than typical pop music, it’s an artfully intriguing style. Vincent’s work reminds me of a Greenwich Village renaissance using some of the tools that make 21st music making possible. He’s an artist to watch for sure.

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