Top 30 Americana Roots Female Vocalist list, while a great list it got me thinking about what my top picks would be right now, so here in no particular order are the ladies in my ear right now.
Valerie Wood of A Mad Affair
Photo by Erle Cravin
Photo by Erle Cravin
A Mad Affair formed around a campfire in the spring of 2011. Inspired by nature, the Chapel Hill trio play as if they never left the birdsong & trees. The radiant voice of Valerie Wood cascades over the nuanced cadences of Garth Robertson's vibrant guitar and the deep, resonant groove of double bassist, Eric Smith. Candy-coated harmonies and the happy bounce of a ukulele often dance throughout a song.Money Honey
Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray
Baby Blue (live @ DC9)
Photo by Jess Varda
Incendiary young country singer and songwriter Rachel Brooke channels the darkest nights of American Southern music, pulling forth influences from raw, early country singing to Chicago blues greats, vintage New Orleans “jass” bands to old animated cartoons, all tied together in the framework of her old-fashioned melodies. It takes a peculiar vision to be able to unite these many different sounds, but Brooke’s pulled off the most difficult task: she’s created a new sound from a pastiche of old music without sounding derivative.
Mean Kind Of Blues
Nikki Ilchert of Nikki Sue & The Bad News
Photo by Jack Hirschorn
Merey Kimbrough of Mother Merey and the Black Dirt
Merey has a vocal style so unabashed it would make Bessie Smith proud. Combine that with the group's foot stomping energy and this band delivers a solid bluesy folk sound like no other. Last week they were the perfectly placed opener for The Builders and the Butchers at The Buzz Mill's Jamboree. Amid the hatchet tossing, jerky making and flapjack eating, there was Mother Merey and the Black Dirt, bringing down the rain with their glorious down home raucous.Written by Charise Sowells - The Deli Austin Come On In My Kitchen
Alynda lee Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff
The Times of London named Hurray for the Riff Raff one of the Top Ten Albums of 2011. Phil Alexander, the Editor-in-Chief of Mojo Magazine, raved that they “have immense potential and seductive power” and named them second best band at SXSW 2011 End Of The Line Live at Mercury Lounge NYC
Kyra Schenck of Sunflower and the Seeds
Rain or Shine
Angela Perley & The Howlin' Moons
Photo by James Godwin
Angela Perley's nostalgic and high energy music tells stories of love, death, railroads, and everything in-between. Her songs are rooted in small town Ohio where she spent much of her childhood wandering in her family's cornfields, enveloped in her own world of dreams and imagination. She wrote numerous plays and poetry and would often perform her works to her family and friends. Countless hours were later spent listening to Patsy Cline, The Carter Family, Loretta Lynn, Bob Dylan, Wanda Jackson, and Billy Holiday while she grew fond of writers and poets like John Yeats, Mark Twain, and Sylvia Plath.
18 Feet Under
Jessica Maros of Escondido
Escondido’s songs range from the Tom Petty/Fleetwood Mac influenced pop numbers Cold October and Bad Without You, to the lovelorn country ballads Special Enough and Willow Tree. “The record was an outlet for me,” says Maros. “Each song brings back where I was, what I drank when I was writing them. It was a dark time and this album got me through it.” The band’s heavy sentiment is balanced out by the playful twang of songs like Don’t Love Me Too Much and the Keep Walkin'. “Music helps us forget the very conflict it grows out of,” says James. “But my favorite songs embrace that dissonance.”
Don't Love Me Too Much
Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band
Charleston, SC-based duo Megan Jean and the KFB arrange a demented blend of americana,punk,dance, and the avant-garde that has been earning them a dedicated following all over America. The pair met in New York City in 2004 and quickly became disillusioned with the music-mill mentality that dominates the city. Feeling lost in the shuffle, Jean and Klay decided to sell all their possessions, quit their day jobs, and hit the road full-time, focusing on the Southeast. Fourteen shows turned into 200 a year and a newfound home-base in Charleston's burgeoning music community. While on the road, the pair forged their unique sound, which has been described as "...a wealth of gorgeous tunes that brilliantly [merge] American roots music with exotic elements of Euro/gypsy styles." (T. Ballard Leseman, Charleston City Paper) Hometown Hero
Bonnie Whitmore learned her way around country music early, touring at the ripe old age of 8 with her parents and her sister in a traveling roadshow cheekily titled “Daddy & the Divas.” “Basically, my dad had children so he could have a band,” she jokes. “He really wanted a bass player, so I learned how to play bass. My sister played the violin.” As much as she loved playing with her family, the older she got, the more she wanted to strike out on her own. “I started to realize that I loved playing music,” she says. “So when I was 16 I started writing my own songs.” As her teen years progressed, Whitmore began working as a session player with other local musicians, while still continuing to perform with her family from time to time. For her first proper statement as a solo artist, she wanted to do something conceptual – something that told a story from beginning to end. Cryin' Out For Me
Annie Lou is built around the original songwriting of Anne Louise Genest, who spent twenty years living in the Yukon woods. Now relocated to the balmier shores of Vancouver Island, Genest carries the spirit of an old storyteller inside her, and this voice, mixed with the stringband sounds of fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin and upright bass, traces a journey through days gone by to the here and now.
There is no medical evidence to prove that Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith and Carrie Rodriguez joined forces to mother a fully-grown musician daughter. But if they did, San Diego singer-songwriter Sara Petite would be the likely outcome.” – George Varga, San Diego Union Times.
She could sing a buzzard off a Slop Wagon,” said Mojo Nixon of Sara Petite. Winner of the 2012 prestigious Chris Austin songwriting contest at Merlefest, the San Diego artist is releasing her fourth album August 1st. The Circus Comes To Town was written before and after the death of her partner Johnny Kuhlken. “It’s a full perspective of the human being - jealousy, infidelity, fun, wit, tragedy, pain, loss, perseverance, substance abuse, shame, guilt and just plain silliness.” Promised Land
A Choctaw Indian, Crain grew up in the small town of Shawnee listening to her father’s Dylan and Grateful Dead records, dabbling in painting (a pursuit she took seriously enough to later land a gallery exhibition in Oklahoma City) and trying her hand at writing short stories. When she became intrigued by the notion of writing songs, Crain reworked a series of stories she’d written while taking creative writing classes at Oklahoma Baptist University into the songs she then recorded for her self-released EP, The Confiscation: A Musical Novella. The quality of the material and the bold way in which she delivered it inspired North Carolina-based Ramseur to sign the fledgling artist to a deal; the indie label gave the EP a proper release in 2007. The Confiscation revealed the then-21-year-old newcomer “as a promising young storyteller with fealty to ragged, country-driven indie-pop and an alluring dark streak,” wrote The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica. Banana Fish Revolution
An American folk singer-songwriter from Louisville, Kentucky. Her music has been described by the New York Times as “tough, dreamy, cloudy-sky country and chamber pop,” with a “rare voice, sweet without being cloying, and weary without hopelessness.”described Mize in All Songs Considered as “lovely -- very much in that Sharon Van Etten, smoky, pretty folk realm. It was just beautiful.” Mize is also associated with acts Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore in the Dear Companion tour for their collaborative Sub Pop release in early 2010. Subsequently they performed at Austin’s South By Southwest festival where Cheyenne Marie Mize was chosen as one of NPR’s 10 “Discoveries at SXSW 2011”. Mize also collaborated with Bonnie Prince Billy in a 10” release “Among the Gold” which featured takes on a variety of late 19th century American parlor songs. Among The Grey
Photo by Hilary Harris
Growing up the daughter of a dynamite salesman in the Colorado foothills, she got her start on the drums at 11, and at 12 her mom was taking her to dive bars to sit in with the scruffy old bluesmen. By the time she picked up a guitar, she had been so shaped by these things – the dynamite, the blues, the woods and the hills – it’s no surprise she went on to be one of the strongest songwriters in Seattle’s ever-vibrant Americana scene. Nervous Wreck
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
Sallie Ford grew up in an artistic family in Asheville, NC. Her father, acclaimed puppeteer Hobey Ford, has been a recipient of multiple grants from the Jim Henson Foundation, and her mother is a performing musician and music teacher. Sallie studied violin. At a young age, however, she was also a capable belter, though she preferred singing harmonies to solos. “I was always overwhelmed by my performing family,” she admits, “I preferred to be the weird one.” Party Kids
In her hometown of Seattle, WA, Lizzie Huffman writes and records her songs with brother Kirk Huffman of Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, along with band mates and friends that include Phil A. Peterson, Thomas Hunter, Kyle O'Quin, Nick Simmons, and John Davenhall. With a powerhouse voice and unique fresh take on country music, she has released her first EP courtesy of Suburban Home Records out of Denver, CO Country Song 2
A child of the folk revival, she grew up traveling to fiddle and song camps, zig-zagging her way along the path of her own curiosity. She was initially inspired by Celtic music, especially Irish fiddling and the highly-rhythmic Cape Breton fiddle style. While in Boston, where she was attending the New England Conservatory, Henley tapped the local scene to connect with a younger generation of songwriters and instrumentalists, and has continued to work with top-flight young traditionalists like Rushad Eggleston, Brittany & Natalie Haas, and Tashina & Tristan Clarridge. However, it was her move to Tel Aviv, Israel for three years that cemented her current work.She became inspired by the language and rhythms of Sephardic culture. Two Birds
Not only one of the sharpest up-and-coming songwriters in Nashville, Natalie Prass possesses a rare artistic method she infuses into all her endeavors. She handcrafts album artwork and flyers and organizes local vinyl listening parties/drawing sessions, and there appears to be little end to the homespun creativity of this bright young talent. She’s also no slouch in the pipes department either — the girl can sing. Although her debut EP is titled Small & Sweet, Prass’ brand of indie folk is not to be underestimated. While her delicate alto evokes clear benchmarks of influence — see early Rilo Kiley, Feist, Karen Carpenter, etc. — Prass never seems weighed down by the artists she’s absorbed. Instead, she has developed a refreshing guitar-grounded musical vocabulary and a knack for infectious and entrancing tunes. Still, it’s a spirit of invitation and friendship that continues to be Prass’ most pronounced attribute. Your Fool
Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, respectively, singer-songwriter Melody Walker and picker extraordinaire Jacob Groopman have fused their influences into a style they like to call “Americali.” They define it as Americana with a California twist. Drawing from genres including bluegrass, rock, jazz, classical, Afrobeat, samba and Balkan folk, yet staying close to their American folk roots, the duo create literate music that honors tradition, yet sounds completely of the moment. Gold Rush Goddess
Lilly Hiatt & The Dropped Ponies
Lilly Hiatt’s an old soul, a young woman wise beyond her years with storytelling as sharp as a seasoned songwriter. It took Lilly Hiatt quite sometime to come to terms with her Nashville status. After her initial flee, she came to embrace the fact that home truly is where the heart is, and eventually returned to Tennesssee. Hiatt's aching melodies combined with Finney's tender yet turbulent guitar licks yielded a sound that the two were unable to find prior: women shedding their childhood skin and coming into the unraveled and emotional world of adulthood. Soon after, the girls hooked up with drummer Jon Radford (Charles Walker and the Dynamites, Drew Holcombe Band) and bass player Jake Bradley (Over the Rhine). Let Down
Jeanette Lynne is an up and coming songwriter from West Chester, Pennsylvania. She has worked her way up through the ranks to play some of Philadelphia’s finest venues and listening rooms. Sweet, simple, and from the heart… her songs will captivate any audience, and leave them wanting more. Bloodhound
Kassy Key & the Raindoggs
Kassy Key & the Raindoggs rose from the ashes of a failed Tom Waits tribute band. The Dogg’s are the quintessential “indie band” from Austin TX. They produce their own music as well as their own music videos. The Raindoggs also lend their talents to other bands, they’ve shot videos for Lisa Marshall, The Jake Levinson Band, Stephanie Grissett, 1.6 Band and more. Kassy Key & the Raindoggs are a beat-heavy, darkened mix of R&B/Soul with an array of influences ranging from Tom Waits, Snoop Dogg, The Heavy, Prince, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, The Lounge Lizards, Amy Winehouse, Imelda May, Motown, STAX Records and more. Tramp
Lily & the Parlour Tricks
Lily & The Parlour Tricks dive deep into the well of musical Americana and resurface with a wild stylistic brew. Lily’s songwriting influences range from The Andrews Sisters to Nine Inch Nails to 19th century murder songs, with roots planted firmly in the smoky back room of early rock n’ roll. "Combining dissonant guitar riffs with angelic vocal harmonies, Lily & The Parlour Tricks are the perfect combo of pretty and gritty... the band has a mysterious depth that holds audiences transfixed through their salty and sweet set." Poison Song
Briana Layon & The Boys
Briana Layon & the Boys, Rock & Roll Warriors in the extreme, are three hard-hitting dudes and a fiery frontwoman "with more bravado than Cherie Curie and Josh Homme combined." When they storm the stage, your attention has nowhere else to go. This is a group that hasn't forgotten a time when Rock was Rock and the job of every band was to become someone's obsession. Their heavy riffs and pulsing melodies pull listeners out of the seats and drive them out of their minds. Playing Dead
Amanda Machon of Red Light Cameras
Photo by Jenn Maestas
The band is fronted by musical theatre actress, Amanda Machon, and her powerhouse voice has been described as “what Tina Turner and Janis Joplin would have produced if they ever had a kid together.” (Israel Morales—examiner.com) Red Light Cameras are “an aural breath of fresh air.” (Dan MacIntosh—Indie Music Reviewer Magazine) Juice
Jillian Taylor of Ruby The Hatchet
With one foot in Philly and the other in Asbury Park Ruby The Hatchet are the East Coasts saviors of heavy rock psych/stoner music, with the powerhouse vocals of Jillian Taylor this is a band on the rise.
Formally of the New Jersey duo Melissa and Paul, now going solo, with her ripping lo-fo verbed stellar guitar playing, powerful vocals and worldly lyrics have me paying close attention to this young up and coming singer/songwriter. Grow
On my radar, Morgan joined Philly's Morning River Band in 2010 for thier album 'Between the Ocean and the Blues' as a backup singer and vocalist. Working as one of our unsung heroes, a Nurse and writes most of her songs while wandering the hospital halls on night shift.
Morning River Band - It's OK (To Be Scared)