I’ve written about Bon Jovi, Brian Fallon (of The Gaslight Anthem), and Frank Turner. Now let’s chat about ten artists who you might not be familiar with, but really should be. I’m doing this a little different from how I might normally tackle such an article. Instead of trying to convince people with silly words, I request that you only listen to the music included below and judge for yourself. They’re all highly recommended.
Unlike the musicians that follow, American Opera hasn’t released a debut album yet. Michigan native John Bee started his musical career during junior high after being inspired by his older brother’s band, eventually touring as a member of the band Your Best Friend. When the group split, Bee continued performing as a solo musician under the name American Opera, eventually taking him away from his Saginaw roots for New York City. In March, American Opera signed with Seattle-based Spartan Records, and his debut album Small Victories is planned for sometime in spring.
Frontman for the punk band Hot Water Music, Chuck Ragan started his solo career with 2007’s folk album Feast or Famine. He returned two years later with Gold Country, featuring a fuller sound, and Covering Ground in 2011. Brian Fallon and Frank Turner, two musicians I previously wrote about, shared their vocals on the album, although I only ever recognize Fallon. This is also the album that got me into Chuck Ragan. His most recent original effort is Till Midnight in 2014, although his soundtrack for the indie game The Flame in the Flood released in 2016.
Ragan also created acoustic-focused Revival Tour, which saw a variety of musicians like Jon Snodgrass, Dan Andriano, Emily Barker, and the aforementioned Brian Fallon and Frank Turner. The Revival Tour went from 2008 through the beginning of 2013.
If you want a reason to care about country music, give Cory Branan a listen. He started his musical career with 2001’s The Hell You Say, which was re-released by Madjack Records the following year. His second album 12 Songs dropped in 2006, a four-year gap that’s surprising because the twelve songs were written alongside those from his debut albums. Six years later, the world got Mutt, while more years resulted in The No-Hit Wonder. More recently, as in April 7th, Branan dropped his most recent album, Adios. My copy arrived just yesterday, so I’m excited to hear it.
A Philadelphia native, Dave Hause (pronounced haw-ss) bounced around a few punk bands (The Loved Ones, one of his later bands, is excellent) before starting a solo career, adopting more of an Americana sound without dropped his punk/rock spirit. He joined Chuck Ragan’s 2009 Revival Tour before releasing his debut solo album Resolutions in early 2011. Hause followed that album with Devour two years later, then his third solo album Bury Me in Philly dropped this past February.
Four (formally five) Florida boys who came together, recorded a few albums, and now I have no idea what’s going on. Are they still together? The first, non-EP album is 2007’s How Far Our Bodies Go, while It’s Great to Be Alive and Real Ghosts Caught on Tape released in, respectively, 2009 and 2010. They’ve created music since, but no full studio albums. Meanwhile, frontman Chris Farren has worked on projects outside the band. Of course, their uncertain future doesn’t mean Fake Problems isn’t worth looking into. Those three albums are great.
Born Mike Reilly, Ike lost the “M” while jumping between bands before dropping music and becoming, of all things, a grave digger and doorman in Chicago. However, the allure of music saw him sign to Universal until his first album, 2001’s Salesmen and Racists, failed to sell. Universal dropped Reilly and, three years later, Sparkle in the Finish started a series of albums by Reilly that you’ve probably never heard of. 2005’s Junkie Faithful was followed with We Belong to the Staggering Evening in 2007. Poison the Hit Parade released in 2008 and Hard Luck Stories the next year, and then a six-year gap. That ended with 2015’s Born On Fire.
A singer/songwriter from Alabama, Jason Isbell joined the Drive-By Truckers for six years before departing, releasing his first solo album Sirens of the Ditch that same year. His second solo album, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, followed two years later — The 400 Unit being Isbell’s backing band, which also played on 2011’s Here We Rest. Alcohol rehab came next, and then Southeastern and Something More Than Free in, respectively, 2013 and 2015. His latest album The Nashville Sound releases on June 16th, and I can’t wait.
You’ve probably already heard Michael Rosenberg, better known as Passenger, after radio stations played “Let Her Go” ad nauseum, but what’s not as well known is that he started as they. The band /Passenger (no, that slash isn’t a typo) released a single album, 2007’s Wicked Man’s Rest, before breaking up. Rosenberg continued using the name as a solo act, creating 2009’s Wide Eyes Blind Love and 2010’s Divers & Submarines. A third album, Flight of the Crow, also dropped in 2010, but it was All the Little Lights in 2012 that propelled him into the limelight.
He followed that success with Whispers two years later, followed by Whispers II, an album that I have never found a physical CD of, in 2015. Young as the Morning Old as the Sea released in 2016, and I loved it enough to call it my second favorite album of the year.
Perhaps the group on the list with the largest number of albums, Red Wanting Blue is also from Ohio, so I’m compelled as a Michigan native to curse those blasted Buckeyes. They got their start with 1996’s debut album Velveteen, beginning a mostly stable release schedule. The Image Trigger arrived in 1998, and Model Citizen in 2000. Sirens dropped a year later, while Souvenirs of City Life in 2003 and Pride: The Cold Lover in 2004. Red Wanting Blue followed up a 2006 live album with 2008’s These Magnificent Miles. (Now we’re getting into the RWB music I’m more familiar with.) Lastly, 2012’s From the Vanishing Point made way for their most recent studio album Little America in 2014.
Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel, childhood friends from San Francisco, released their first album The Throes under the band name Two Gallants in 2004, and they’ve remained a two-person group in the years since. They went more ambitious with their next album, 2005’s What the Toll Tells, featuring four songs (of nine) that’re more than eight minutes in length. 2007 saw a self-titled third album and EP The Scenery of Farewell, while The Bloom and the Blight released five years later. 2015’s We Are Undone is their most recent album, and while it’s not my favorite of their albums, I still liked most of it.
April 30, 2017: Added a Read More tag.
May 11, 2017: Changed a few words.