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Check out these talented poet-musicians who’ve found success with their signature sounds in the Lowcountry and beyond
Since first making the scene in the early ’90s with the band Lay Quiet Awhile, Danielle Howle has managed to stay fiercely independent. This folk rocker and artist-in-residence at Awendaw Green is well-known for her lovely Midlands drawl, her stream-of-consciousness banter between songs, and her seemingly endless arsenal of quality original music. Some favorite tunes include “Roses From Leroy’s” and “I’ll Be Blue” from her 2006 album Thank You Mark.
Sounds like: Ella Fitzgerald meets Janis Joplin
CD: Swamp Sessions (2009)
If you only know him as “that guy who plays guitar in Hootie,” then you only know a small part of Mark Bryan the musician. In addition to being an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston and founding Chucktown Music Group, he has released his own solo work, which is light enough to appeal to his Hootie base but meaty with alt-rock and alt-country influences. “Fork in the Road,” the radio single from Bryan’s 2008 album, End of the Front, is as catchy as anything from Hootie’s heyday and further benefits from Danielle Howle’s soaring vocals.
Sounds like: Evan Dando, if he were actually having fun
CD: End of the Front (2008)
The melodic power of Annie Boxell’s music seems to waft into the listener’s ears much like the scent of home-baked bread pleasantly invades one’s nostrils. Boxell mixes her lovely vocals with a piano style reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan whether she’s playing with her sometimes band, The Vicious Circle, or alongside guitarist Jim Algar.
Sounds like: Sarah McLachlan without the breathless drama
Live: Tuesdays & Fridays at Atlanticville on Sullivan’s Island, as well as Saturdays at Toast downtown
Joel T. Hamilton
Calling Joel Hamilton original is selling the guy short. His songs—performed solo or with his band, The Working Title—do something that today’s music doesn’t do often enough: it makes you think. We’re not talking a purposefully cerebral geek rocker here, but rather an artist who refuses to follow the typical verse-chorus-verse way of making music. The fact that the end result is pleasing to the ear is icing on the cake.
Sounds like: Jeff Tweedy meets Rufus Wainwright
CDs: Officina (2008) & The Working Title’s Bone Island (2009)
Although he was born in Mississippi and now calls New York home, Owen Beverly can definitely lay claim to having some strong musical roots here in the Lowcountry. While studying classical composition at the College of Charleston, Beverly made a name for himself playing at local bars and clubs. Lately he’s been devoting much of his creative output to his band, Tent Revival, and songwriting. Even if you are hearing one of his songs for the first time, there is a certain comfortable sense of familiarity that comes across in the performance, as if you have already been playing his CD in your car for a month.
Sounds like: Jeff Buckley meets Gram Parsons
CD: Shooting the Bull (2008)
Live: If you happen to be in New York City, catch him Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. at Arlene’s Grocery.
In addition to his pure, strong voice with the range to hit the high notes, Aaron Levy is a natural-born songwriter. Whether penning lyrics for himself or for his band, White Rhino, Levy demonstrates definite alt-country leanings without getting too twangy. He seems just as comfortable in front of several hundred at the Music Farm as he is playing for a dozen people in a coffee house.
Sounds like: Art Garfunkel meets Matthew Sweet
CD: White Rhino’s In Common Places (2010)
Doug Walters seems to write songs with the same frequency that most people brush their teeth. If the prolific composer were a literary character, he would be Dr. Jekyll. In its normal form, Walters’ music is pleasant enough—rock and roll with hints of Pink Floyd and The Velvet Underground. But just as Dr. Jekyll has his alter-ego, Mr. Hyde, Walters has Torture Town, a down and dirty project that encompasses all the best parts of rock’s darker side.
After Charleston-based band Jump (formerly Jump, Little Children) went on hiatus in 2005, lead singer Jay Clifford turned to songwriting, having previously cowritten with Howie Day. Collaborators over the past half-decade have included Sean Lennon, Robert Randolph, and Missy Higgins. In addition to sharing these in-demand talents, Clifford continues to tour and release solo material, including 2007’s excellent Driving Blind, with the single “Know When to Walk Away,” which features a video directed by Scrubs’ Zach Braff.
Sounds like: What you loved about Jump, evolved
CD: Driving Blind (2007)
A true original, Lindsay Holler takes elements of jazz, country, and rock music and infuses them with a voice that absolutely smolders. Whether it’s on her own or with her current band, the Western Polaroids, a Lindsay Holler performance is about as honest and stripped of pretension as it gets.
Sounds like: The love child of Tom Waits and
CD: Helltembre (2010)
Live: November 4 at The White Mule in Columbia
Photographs (Bryan) by The Factory Photography/Goldy, (Howle) by JP Stevens, (Hamilton) by Marcus Price, (Boxell) by Amy Little, (White Rhino) Courtesy of Aaron Levy, (Holler) by Devin Grant, (Walters) by Kaitlyn Iserman, & (Clifford) by Gayle Brooker