All Faces – “Welcome Home”
-Somewhere in the space between handy clappy happy-go-lucky folk music and atmospheric indie rock is this gem of a track from All Faces. It’s full of brightness and joy. It’s the kind of song that will have you smiling, no matter your mood. It seems like here in northeast Ohio we could use a lot more of this cheery music.
Emmeline – “Superheroes”
-Sometimes we get a submission that we can’t fully explain or describe in pithy lines, but we just know it’s good. That’s how I feel about Emmeline’s music; this track just hits me somewhere deep and I don’t fully know why. It’s jazzy at times, cinematic in moments, and fully engaging from the opening chord to the end. It’s about having initiative in life, I think. It’s sure to inspire a lot of folks.
Royal Wood – “Make your mind up”
-There’s a whole sub-genre of folk music that makes me think of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. I’m not sure if they were the first to create this kind of music, but it’s the one I always come back to. Royal Wood have some exquisite harmonies on this wonderful song. In some ways, this is what “American” music is all about to me. It’s somewhat blues, somewhat country, and a whole lot of optimistic toward brighter times. This one just might ride out the song of the year list for me; it’s like an anthem for 2019. “Oh your sweetness is my weakness.” Indeed.
Keston Cobblers Club – “Esta”
-This is a fun song that reminds me of everything I love about the Head and the Heart. Just listen to it. There’s almost nothing I can say that effectively explains this track. The harmonies are fantastic, but there’s also this charming spirit to the lyrics as well. You want to root for this reuniting couple. At least that’s how I interpret the lyrics… I am going to put this on repeat until I learn these lyrics. I love it. Also KCC are on my list of folksters to watch in 2019.
Mo Kle – “If I die”
-Acoustic singer songwriters are really common in the music landscape, so for one to stand out the artist really has to exhibit something special. This artist does that by being the whole package, everything from careful guitar work to quality lead vocal comes together. The lyrics are positive, even while being about death. It’s not a stretch to call this one “Dylan-esque.”
Albee Blue – “Good Times”
-This song doesn’t have a genre or a decade. It’s just unique in the best way possible. There are shades of 60s and 70s rock here, but really Albee Blue have made something fascinatingly “new” feeling. I love the harmonies, the cool clean guitar licks, and the overall chill vibe. It’s a song you can just chill listening to without feeling like you need to sink your soul into figuring out the lyrically complexity. It’s about love, ya’ll, and what happens next. Chill.
Kuri – “Human Nature”
-When the PR copy says both Sigur Ros and Bon Iver, of course I take notice. But I also think, “there’s no way this can be good enough… oh… oh wait.” This is very good. Kuri’s track “Human Nature” has a vulnerability to it that we rarely hear in music. The layers are deeply rewarding. But in the end, it’s about the honest vocal highlighting vivid lyrics that makes it so powerful. I think it will everyone uniquely, so take a close listen and see what you think.
Matt Pless – “In the past tense”
-Pless is a modern day Townes Van Zandt. I don’t throw that name around lightly, but you can tell he comes at it honestly. The Seeger/Guthrie/Van Zandt style drips from the guitar and lyric work. He’s really talented. One of the things that I love about this track is the articulation of the lines. You can tell he cares about conveying each line. I’m really pulled into the travelling, rambling, simple life sweetness of this track.
Wild Rivers – “Moving Target”
-There’s a line, “selling four chords and my heart” that absolutely slayed me when I first heard this song. It’s easy to hear a sort of Noah and Abby Gundersen vibe with Wild Rivers. But what I like about how they do the male-female duo work is that the harmonies are so organic. It’s not formulaic or autotuned to perfection; it’s real and raw. I love that it’s about how hard life is for travelling musicians, yet is so relatable to the rest of us.
Kyle Daniel – “Born to lose”
-Does Chris Stapleton have a younger brother named Kyle Daniel? Because that’s what he sounds like. My goodness, this is a country music power ballad. There’s a touch of Tim McGraw in there, too, and that’s nothing to take lightly. Kyle Daniel’s composition is rich with layers of piano and guitar work that are really fun. Also, the “born to lose” lyrics are perfect for my pessimistic heart. We don’t often feature modern country, but this one is worth an exception.