Here are some folks with whom I have a musical (or even personal or literal) kinship. I’m lucky to have been a part of such creative scenes, from Cleveland to Raleigh to Chicago, and to have played with so many inspiring bands. So please — poke at some play buttons, and if you hear anything you like, click through and show your support. Thanks.
[Photo by Piper Kruse.]
I used to be in a band with my brother Scott and our friend Greg in Raleigh, North Carolina. When I left, they got a new drummer, Chris, and forged ahead as a power trio. Scott plays keyboards and writes literary story-songs in the Springsteen tradition. Greg plays bass and writes hooky anthems that occasionally contain a bit of math. But regardless of author, Goner songs manage to be yearning and energizing at the same time. Preferring their pop as heavy as possible, Goner condenses the sweep of the stadium into perfect little symphonies.
THE MONOLOGUE BOMBS
The Monologue Bombs is the name my brother Scott uses when he’s in full-on singer-songwriter mode. He records mostly solo under this moniker, but while the arrangements can be subdued, the emotions never are. If you are a “lyrics person,” this stuff is for you.
John Aselin is a bestie of mine, an erstwhile Zapruder Point bassist and a rock songwriter steeped in the biggies — Young, Dylan, and Davies. He’s a guitarist who’s perfectly adept at soloing psychedelically or learning entire Zombies albums, but for his recordings (especially with Johnny and The Creeps), he aims for short, rousing pieces sung soulfully, with hooks aplenty. John is also one of Chicago’s most committed performers, so if you ever get the chance to see him, do it.
Mike Uva put out a Zapruder Point CD earlier in the millennium, and the appreciation is more than mutual. Rooted in the Cleveland indie scene, Mike is an amazing songwriter in the deceptively laid-back vein of a Jason Molina or Will Oldham. And he just gets better and better, making me more and more jealous; his most recent album (Lady, Tell Me Straight) is a perfectly-sequenced slice of shurugged-off, (The)Band-style brilliance.
Marcus Maloney was a recording guy responsible for my live EP a couple years back, and an ace guitarist for Chicago indie band Honest Engines. Then he up and started writing his own songs, delicate folk things than bloom in the studio under his own considerable producing skills, of course. He claims to have written his first song in 2012 or something, but it sure doesn’t sound like it. Anyway, The Oarsman makes beautiful, soaring acoustic music, sung simply but far from plain.
With a voice like Pedro the Lion and a clutch of songs that seemed to mine a stressful relationship or two, it was a great surprise to find Steven Gilpin such an affable, charming and energizing performer when I shared a bill with him a short while ago. With the aid of some lo-fi rhythm making robots (or something), his Syndrome EP elevates itself above your typical folk strum, and his voice is a gorgeous, pleading thing. He also recently quit his office job to teach kids about songwriting, so how cool is that?
Eric is an old friend from my college days. Primarily a theatre guy (playwright, director, critic), as a singer/songwriter he deploys a playful minimalism that echoes his work as a dramatist. Part of this is due to his “limitations” as a guitarist — he learned to play as a child via an acoustic he wasn’t allowed to take out of its case, and thus plays it pre-tuned to a major chord, down across his lap. Lyrically, he also keeps things fairly unadorned, letting images rattle around the listener’s head in stories about garden plants, car repairs, and the search for the perfect huevos rancheros. He’s also the king of between-song banter, so you should definitely see him live if you have the opportunity.
Josh Hensley is a South Bend songwriter who shared bills with the trio-with-violin incarnation of Zapruder Point earlier this millennium. He seemed to go silent for nearly a decade, eventually re-booting The Rutabega as a duo with drummer Garth Mason via the frankly breathtaking album Brother, the Lights Don’t Work. These are deceptively simple tunes amped up and spread to epic, soaring heights — heart-on-sleeve indie rock at its finest, with amazing falsetto-to-scream vocals.