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6 Bands to Listen to Now

Ranging from soul, gospel and instrumental to experimental, these six bands are redefining what it means for music to be Southern.
Compiled by Rebecca Lynn Aulph

The Lone Bellow

About: Brooklyn-based but Southern-bred, this trio of reconnected friends – Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin and Brian Elmquist – met at Dizzy’s Diner in Park Slope on a fateful morning in 2010 to jam. They soon exceeded their own expectations and became The Lone Bellow. The band’s familial feel stems from the painful turned joyful experiences of the group’s lead singer and principal songwriter, Williams, whose wife suffered a near-paralyzing spinal cord injury when the couple lived in Georgia. During his wife’s recovery, Williams started keeping a journal of poetry. Friends suggested he learn how to play the guitar and turn his poems into songs.

Album: The Lone Bellow

First Listen: You Never Need Nobody, Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold and Two Sides of Lonely

Sounds Like: Springsteen-style vocals mixed with Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and The Civil Wars

Touring: Across the South from April 2-15


About: Proof of the six degrees of separation, the members of Nashville-based Leagues include singer Thad Cockrell, guitarist Tyler Burkum and drummer Jeremy Lutito. Tyler and Jeremy met  first on the road while backing Mat Kearney. Then, a friend and Leagues founding member, Mike Simmons, recommended Tyler to Thad, who was toying with a new sound and looking for a musician. Finally, Thad and Jeremy exchanged numbers after running into each other at an East Nashville eatery. After connecting the dots, the group got together every six weeks to play and experiment with music. In September 2010, Thad had a gig opening for Zach Williams & the Reformation at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, and he brought the other guys along to back up the band. In the middle of his performance, Thad took a risk and announced that from then on he would only perform with and as a member of Leagues.

Album: “You Belong Here

First Listen: Spotlight, Haunted and Walking Backwards

Sounds Like: U2 to Michael Jackson

Touring: Rhythm & Blues Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, April 6 and Stray at Home Festival in Jackson, Mississippi, May 11

Rayland Baxter

About: Even though Rayland Baxter grew up with a multi-instrumentalist father, Bucky Baxter, who taught him how to play guitar when he was in elementary school, he never grew up wanting to be a rock star. For him, life was about balance and following his gut. He spent his childhood playing sports and Nintendo, in addition to the guitar, which he didn’t pick up seriously until he was 21 and traveling from Tennessee to Colorado to Israel and back. By the end of his travels, he only wanted to make music, and he had plenty of song material. He used his time in Israel to craft his Miscalculation of Song EP, and he began recording his full-length album in January 2011.

Album: “Feathers & Fishhooks

First Listen: Olivia and Mountain Song

Sounds Like: The Shins and Fruit Bat

Touring: Tortuga Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, April 14

Kishi Bashi

About: Most likely heard but not known, Kishi Bashi or K. Ishibashi is a Japanese-American multi-instrumentalist in Norfolk, Virginia, who has toured and played the violin with the likes of Athens-based indie rock group of Montreal and Regina Spektor. Plus, his music has been used in Windows 8, Sony and American Express commercials, and he was named NPR’s “Best New Artist of the Year” in 2012. Despite the fact that the title of his first full-length album is a crafted play on the Japanese expression ichi-go, ichi-e which basically means “one place, one time,” Ishibashi claims that when it comes to making music with his violin and loop machine, he likes to tinker. The sound comes to him before the words.

Album: “151a

First Listen: Manchester and Bright Whites

Sounds Like: Andrew Bird, with glimmers of Owen Pallet

Touring: Brown’s Island “Friday Cheers” in Richmond, Virginia, June 14

Matthew E. White

About: Founder of Spacebomb records, Virginia-born Matthew E. White started his singing career backwards. After founding a record label, he needed an album, so he needed to write songs and sing. So far, his approach has turned out nicely. He founded Spacebomb to recreate the kind of community he found in the Evangelical church, but with music, and open tributes to artists like Allen Toussaint, Jimmy Cliff and Randy Newman. An unlikely success story, White creates his own kind of soul music from Richmond that may never top charts, but has already earned him an audience, music festival billing with the likes of  Phoenix, Snoop Dogg and Franz Ferdinand, and critical acclaim.

Album: “Big Inner

First Listen: Big Love, Will You Love Me

Sounds Like: Iron and Wine, Otis Redding and Bon Iver

Touring: Bonnaroo on June 13

The Infamous Stringdusters

About: A band that first emerged in 2007, The Infamous Stringdusters currently include Andy Hall on the dobro, Andy Falco on the guitar, Chris Pandolfi on the banjo, Jeremy Garrett on the fiddle and Travis Book on the upright bass. Pandolfi and Eldridge, both Berklee College of Music students, followed Hall to Nashville, where they met Cobb and Garrett, Hall’s Ronnie Brown Committee band mates. The five held auditions for a bassist, found Brook, and went on to record four studio albums, including the most recent “Silver Sky,” and two Grammy nods in 2011. Find out more about them in “Dusting Across the South,” a review of their recent Chattanooga show by Todd Powers.

Album: “Silver Sky

First Listen: The Hitchhiker, The Place That I Call Home

Sounds Like: Earl Scruggs Revue, New Grass Revival, The Grateful Dead and The Band

Touring: The National in Richmond, Virginia, March 30, Asheville Earth Day April 20, U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 21, Radford University in Radford, Virginia, April 22 and Floyd Fest July 26-27

Extra Track: Jim James

About: My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James put out his debut solo album last month. MMJ fans will recognize his similar sound, but this album is stripped down and all James. The Louisville, Kentucky, native plays most of the instruments himself, with his beautiful voice coming through loud and clear.

Album:Regions of Light and Sound of God

First Listen: A New Life, Know Til Now

Sounds Like: My Morning Jacket style with John Lennon vocals

Touring: Brown Theatre in Louisville April 17, Cannery Ballroom in Nashville May 2, The Orange Peel in Asheville May, Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta May 4, Stubbs Waller Creek in Austin May 6, House of Blues in Dallas May 7, Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores May 17 and Bonnaroo June 13-16

Rebecca Lynn Aulph is an intern at Deep South, living in Decatur, Georgia. Find out more about her in our Contributors section, and read her posts about participating in National Novel Writing Month here

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