It’s all contenders with no pretenders in this Lowcountry roundup of guitar-slinging desperadoes vying for the spotlight
Band of Horses
Marching coast to coast through premier venues—The Greek Theatre, Austin City Limits, The Fillmore—and now fanning across Europe, Band of Horses (BOH), led by Mount Pleasant resident Ben Bridwell, is a group with momentum. Sharing the Milwaukee Farm Aid stage in October with Dave Matthews, Neil Young, and Willie Nelson, BOH is galloping toward the pantheon of musical giants.
Sounds like: My Morning Jacket plus the Flaming Lips plus Marshall Tucker Band
CD: Infinite Arms (2010)
Live: You’ll have to fly to Europe, where they’ll be touring throughout the winter.
As earnest and forthright as the Indiana backwoods from which they hail, Tyler Mechem and his Crowfield cofounder, Joe Giant, relocated to Charleston in 2005, forming the band soon thereafter. As principal lyricist, Mechem approaches songwriting in much the same fashion as Adam Duritz, lead vocalist of another fine-feathered roots rock band known as Counting Crows. With several songs in rotation on 105.5 The Bridge and now signed to Universal Republic Records, Crowfield is yet another muster in search of a Grammy-winning formula.
Sounds like: Counting Crows, Will Hoge
CD: Movin’ On EP (2010)
Live: November 19 with Charlie Mars at The Music Farm
Picking up precisely where The Who and Big Star left off, Leslie is a classic guitar-driven power trio ready to see a million faces and rock them all. Front man Sadler Vaden (vocals, guitar) calls them a Southern British rock band that formed its sound by “putting Petty, Zeppelin, The Who, and Skynyrd all into a blender.” Fresh off the release of their first full-length work, Touch Me, recorded with Grammy-winning producer Paul Ebersold (3 Doors Down, Green River Ordinance), Leslie continues to explore the crunchy guitar punch of Jet and The Cult during its heyday.
Sounds like: Jet meets The Who
CD: Touch Me (2010)
Live: November 7 at The Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia, & December 2, 9, 16, & 23 at Double Door in Charlotte, North Carolina
After more than 20 years, 10 CDs, and countless gigs, the Blue Dogs are officially a Lowcountry institution that continues to routinely sell out local venues. Arising post-Hugo along with the resurrection of Charleston, the group has refined a sound that shifts effortlessly from bluegrass to country rock and other Americana byways. Producers David Lowery of Cracker and Don Gehman (John Mellencamp, REM, and Hootie) have taken notice, collaborating on two superb Blue Dogs projects.
Sounds like: Guy Clark introducing The Eagles to Bill Monroe
CDs: Live at Workplay CD (2006) & Live at the House of Blues DVD (2005)
Live: November 13 at The Handlebar in Greenville
Self-described as “sand-blasted roots rock with a sweet jam spread,” this Folly Beach-based band emits a warm, breezy recorded sound so effervescent it almost betrays the quality musicianship and song craft below the surface. Fronted by gifted vocalist Dan Lotti, the band is rounded out with Mike Sivilli’s hypnotic, elliptical guitar play and the crisp, tight wire percussion of Steven Sandifer (formerly of The Biscuit Boys). Catch Dangermuffin on XM-Sirius satellite radio or in a town near you as they steadily rise through the jam-band ranks.
Sounds like: Jack Johnson, Eels, Widespread Panic
CD: Moonscapes (2010)
Live: touring the Northeast through November
The Explorers Club
Whether you’re a boomer who loved the Beach Boys or a young music lover into soundscapes with classic harmonies and sophisticated pop arrangements, The Explorers Club will satisfy your urges. Formed in 2005, the band is not a tribute act, but a continuation of a vintage style with updated lyrics.
Sounds like: The Beach Boys, Zombies, Simon & Garfunkle
CD: Freedom Wind (2008) & HBO’s Bored to Death soundtrack (2010)
The Fire Apes
Churning out smartly crafted pop gems since the early ’90s, The Fire Apes are making a fresh push off a new album recorded with gold and platinum producer Sean O’Keefe (“Hey There Delilah”). Songs written by singer-guitarist John Seymour have also appeared on MTV’s The Hills and Parental Control.
Sounds like: The Producers run into The Beatles during lunch with Weezer
CD: The Fire Apes EP (2006)
Arguably Charleston’s most stalwart rockabilly group, The Defilers have kept the cow punk good and greasy since the early 2000s. Singer Arleigh Hertzler is unafraid to reflect on the dark side, sharing his point of view through a voice that recalls Mike Ness of Social Distortion and the good Reverend Horton Heat. Bassist Michael Dumas and drummer Pat Queen bring the thunder and lightning. Keep an ear out for a new CD coming this winter.
Sounds like: Mike Ness, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams
CD: Flat Tires & Ex-wives (2010)
Online: www.myspace.com/thedefilers, www.reverbnation.com/thedefilers
Live: November 20 at The Mill in North Charleston
Relocated to John’s Island by way of Nashville and then Atlanta, singer-guitarist Joe Marlow describes The Tips as a soul band. Along with Brent Sandel, Matt Cahill, and a host of sidemen on bass and horns, the group has a gritty, groove-oriented sound with elements of funk and blues layered throughout. Reminiscent of Little Feat and The Band with a touch of The Blues Brothers, The Tips “put six minutes of entertainment into a three-minute song,” says Marlow.
Photographs: (Crowfield) by Sully Sullivan, (Blue Dogs) courtesy of the Blue Dogs, (BOH) by Phillip Andelman, (Leslie) by David McClister, (Explorers Club) by Troy Stains, (Defilers) by Bob Nicolai, (Dangermuffin) by Ben Williams, (The Tips) by Cilinia Powell, & (Fire Apes) by Joe Felder.