Many new musicians can remind you of older (and sometimes more famous) ones. Three years ago, I’d written about the Rhode Island-based alternative folk and blues band, Deer Tick, and mentioned how uncannily Bob Dylanesque their lead singer, John McCauley sounds—so much so that a colleague after hearing them play even dubbed him ‘Baby Dylan’. But they’re not the only ones. Whenever I hear New Jersey’s rockers, The Gaslight Anthem, I’m reminded of Bruce Springsteen—and, in fact, that association is not without basis: The Gaslight Anthem are quite heavily influenced by The Boss; they’ve opened for him; and he’s played with them. More recently, I heard Charles Bradley who is known as ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’ and at 64 has just one album (No Time For Dreaming) to his credit. Bradley has his own style of singing funk, soul and R&B tunes but you can also distinctively discern strong influences of two legends, the late James Brown and the late Otis Redding. Then I read that Bradley began his career as a James Brown mimicker on stage before he found his own groove.
If you’ve ever heard Gogol Bordello play, particularly at one of their adrenalin charged live concerts, the last thing you’ll do is classify them as folk musicians. This nine-member band from New York’s gritty Lower East Side is raucous and boisterous and I’ve seen them described somewhere as “demented”. After listening to a couple of live recordings, I wouldn’t dream of calling their gypsy infused, non-stop, high-energy performances folk music, at least not by the conventional yardstick of what that genre represents. Their music has elements of East European gypsy music, western punk and alternative rock. Not surprisingly, Gogol Bordello, led by frontman and singer Eugene Hutz, an Ukrainian-American, is described as a gypsy-punk band. I’ll tell you why I mentioned the folk music genre in a few seconds but first a bit about Gogol Bordello. Read more
I have gushed before about The National’s Matt Berninger and his deep baritone voice and their songs with highly literate and intimate, if a bit self-absorbed, lyrics. The two albums of the Brooklyn-based band that I like—Alligator and Boxer—do routine overtime on my playlists. I like the sad (yet not soppy) undertone in many of their songs and the nice dose of intellectualism and wit. It would be fair enough to say The National is among my favourite bands.
The very first time I heard their lead singer’s raspy, nasal, serrated vocals, I knew I was going to like Deer Tick, a band I first heard on a podcast of their gig at Newport Folk Fest last month. I may have mentioned the band in passing in an earlier instalment of Download Central but I hadn’t explored them enough then. Lead singer John McCauley III’s nasal snarl belies his age. He is 23. And a friend who dropped in while I was playing some Deer Tick said he sounds like a baby Dylan.