In no particular order…
Fleet Foxes – Can anything penetrate your very psyche more than this? Sacred Harp meets the Beach Boys, Zombies and My Morning Jacket. My head has fallen off in the snow – there you go….
Midlake – They were the real reason why I went to ACL 2007. They have also earned a place on the bumper of our Jeep. Haunting melodies of bare trees, snow and halls of stone. A soundtrack for the ages.
The Hackensaw Boys – Without a doubt the most exciting band I’ve seen in a long damn time. There’s an indeterminate number of them, but no matter how many of ’em you see, you’re in for a speedmetal bluegrass experience that’ll have you buck dancing before you can even define the term. I can’t say enough. I haven’t been this excited about a band in I don’t know how long.
Old Crow Medicine Show – First cousins to the Hackensaws in terms of musicality, but with a bluesier edge. Going to see them is an experience in that you are never quite sure if they’re going to show up. I think they’re better about that now, though.
Carbon Leaf – I first saw them in Huber Court when I worked at the Chrysler. They sounded as though they had been wrapped in cotton, dipped in wax, and then put in a deep, deep well. Since then, I’ve seen them more times than I can count and count each time as spectacular as the…well…the second time I saw them.
Belle and Sebastian – If Nick Drake and Love had ever created an unholy union in a Marks and Spencers in Scotland, not only would they have needed therapy, but they would have sounded something like this. I have seen them live now – you can touch me if you want to. But not there.
Great Big Sea – My favorite boy band. Except that they play accordion and bodhran. And I don’t think any of them are named Justin.
The Del McCoury Band – The first band I ever saw fit to stick on the back of my car. This means something.
Steve Earle – Listen to “Transcendental Blues” and I think you’ll understand. And if you don’t, that’s your problem.
Stacey Earle – Yes, it’s Steve’s sister. She sings ’cause it makes her happy. She also sticks out her tongue when she’s playing guitar. That alone is reason enough to listen.
Nickel Creek – Every live performer should be required to watch this band play. I’ve never seen anyone more thrilled – more honoured – to be allowed to play in front of people. I’ve also never seen a mandolin player as hyper as Chris Thile. Or with such interesting hair. Bill Monroe might be rolling in his grave right now at the thought of this being labeled bluegrass – but I’d rather think that he’s tapping his high lonesome toe in happiness.
Rasputina – Having worn a corset myself while playing a musical instrument, I can’t help but admire this band. And they remind me of a me I might have been.
Glory Fountain – My old roommates, Lynn and John. Beautiful harmonies, and a sense of old houses, multi-coloured christmas lights, thrift store finds and sweet sweet kitties.
Guided By Voices – Pure, drunken pop genius. “Glad Girls” makes me want to break things.
John Doyle – The only acoustic guitar player to make me swoon. He is a godlike creature. I saw him in a solo show recently. Pure bliss.
Solas – Despite the fact that John Doyle is no longer with them, and Karan Casey has flitted off to a solo career, they can still knock the breath right out of you. Try it – it’s good for what ails you.
Ooberman – Imagine what would happen if the Three O’ Clock were raped by Abba. This group rules – and”Shorley Wall” is one of the greatest songs ever written.
Travis – The second coming of Big Star. In Scotland. With banjos.
Martyn Bennett – Imagine your best religious experience. Now set it to music with bagpipes and a techno beat. That’s Martyn Bennett. I saw him in Glasgow a couple of years ago and haven’t been the same since. And no…it wasn’t the heather beer….
Acoustic Syndicate – Jazzy bluegrass with altruistic tendencies. Also one of the greatest live acts you’ll ever see. The last time I saw them the earth moved. Actually, it was the floor of the club – but who’s checking?
Sigur Ros – Beautiful Icelandic band that reportedly has caused hordes of fans to spontaneously faint. Watch their videos and see if you don’t feel a bit light-headed.
Spearmint – I’ve only just discovered this group – but they seem to have an innate sense of poppiness that cannot be denied. It should be illegal to not play them on the radio here in the States.