For this particular post, we’re highlighting five predominantly indie folk releases dropped during the past couple to few years that you’ve probably never heard, but that we strongly recommend, especially if you’re a fan of indie DIY, under-the-radar damn good folk music – with rich and subtle infusions of bluegrass, rock, pop and country. These are albums that we did not hear at the time of their original release date, but should be part of the indie folk rock archives – and so here they are.
This post is also meant to bring your attention to the artists and bands themselves, and the songs and releases that first endeared us to them – not their most recent releases. None of these artists have been published on IRC before but they live on in our playlists forever. Enjoy.
In This Installment:
Roadkill Ghost Choir – Jacksonville, Florida
Miner – Los Angeles, California
Honey Locust – Nashville, Tennessee
Born Standing Up – Oxford, Mississippi
Waterwells – Birmingham, Alabama
Roadkill Ghost Choir – Quiet Light
Original release: July 2013
From the Florida swamp lands of gators and cypress trees covered with Spanish moss, comes the absolutely phenomenal ambient folk rock band Roadkill Ghost Choir. In recent years, they have enjoyed the kind of attention a talented DIY band deserves. To truly appreciate RKGC, we strongly recommend listening to the band’s releases from oldest to most recent.
The ball got rolling for RKGC in 2012 when Andy Shepard (vocals, guitar) was invited to perform a gig at a local club. Not wanting to perform solo because he feared it would bore the patrons, Shepard recruited his brothers – Maxx Shepard (drums) and Zach Shepard (bass) to join him on stage.
And that was the planting of the seed that eventually spawned spectacular songs like bluegrass tinged folk rock track, “Beggar’s Guild”; the heartbreakingly beautiful acoustic ballad, “Bird in the Window,” and the less folk-influenced, more rock-driven, “Devout,” from the band’s fantastic 2013 debut EP, Quiet Light . The original three-track EP received over 150,000 plays and more than 1,200 Likes on Soundcloud.
MP3: “Beggar’s Guild” – Roadkill Ghost Choir from Quiet Light EP
Not long after playing live together, the three brothers realized, and based on the response they received from the audience, that they had something special. Wasting no time, the Shepards drafted musicians Kiffy Meyers (pedal steel, banjo, guitar), Joey Davoli (keys, trumpet) and Stephen Garza (lead guitar) to create a fuller, bigger sound.
Bonus MP3: “Bird in the Window” – Roadkill Ghost Choir from Quiet Light
The re-released expanded version of the EP, released later on, includes songs like the jammin’ folk rocker, “Drifter,” and the dreamy, melodic hooks of “Tarot Youth.”
Jumping ahead to more recently, the band’s follow-up debut 2014 album, In Tongues, won huge praise and online love, propelling the band into a new realm of popularity. It’s not hard to believe at all, when we first listened to Quiet Light a few years ago, that RKGC came back the next year with a stellar debut album.
Miner – Into The Morning
Original release: February 2014
Los Angeles husband and wife songwriting duo, Justin and Kate Miner, who release indie folk rock under the likely moniker, Miner, began making some waves in the LA folk revivalist scene in 2012.
Miner’s debut LP, Into The Morning, was released in February of 2014, featuring standout singles like “Carousel” and “Hey Love,” that collectively amassed over 380,000 plays and more than 2,000 Likes on Soundcloud. That’s significant for any band. The band’s intricate vocal harmonies and sing-along melodies have made them a crowd favorite in LA, throughout the west coast and increasingly across the nation.
MP3: “Carousel” – Miner from Into The Morning
In 2015, the duo expanded into a full band, welcoming other family members into the fold, including Jeremy Miner, and his cousin, Amanda Koosed, while long-time friends, Justin Krook and David Schechtman, comprised the rhythm section.
Interestingly enough, Miner was originally a Kickstarter-funded, bedroom-studio project inspired by an extended trip through central and South America during which time the duo wrote and recorded the songs from their debut.
In fact, in 2013 and 2014, Miner shared the stage with indie giants like Lord Huron, Cayucas, Typhoon and White Demin. The band lists their top musical influences as Fleet Foxes, Wilco, Beck, Arcade Fire, and the Tallest Man On Earth.
Honey Locust – The Great Southern Brood
Original release: February 2014
After making Nashville indie folk band Honey Locust‘s single, “Blue Rooms,” a DIY Song of the Day last year, we were even more impressed the more we listened to their meticulously arranged 2014 debut concept LP, The Great Southern Brood – a reference to 2011’s ‘Brood XIX,’ a cyclical 17-year invasion of cicadas in the southeastern United States.
Honey Locust is the duo of 20-somethings Jacob Davis (vocals, guitar, banjo) and Patrick Howell (piano, violin), who began recording when they were still teenagers.
They spent most of 2013 in isolation, writing and recording the album with friends and “world class string players.” The result is a thoughtful and dense concept album with poignant instrumentation and heartfelt lyrics and vocals.
MP3: “Blue Rooms“ – Honey Locust from The Great Southern Brood
The album, the band contends, is an introverted and ‘earnestly somber’ form of “southern Gothic chamber music” that explores “the boundaries of contemporary folk music while maintaining connection with their traditional roots,” relying heavily on orchestral strings and horns.
The duo’s debut EP, Fear Is A Feeling, received accolades in the Nashville indie scene and led to bookings with accomplished local bands such as Saintseneca, Frontier Ruckus, River City Extension, Josephine Foster, and The Lonely Wild.
Honey Locust’s top musical influences include Andrew Bird, Timber Timbre, The National, Balmorhea, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Califone. We also really liked Davis’ answer to the question ‘what is indie rock’: [It’s] “music that is what it wants to be, not what anyone else wants it to be.” Nicely put.
Born Standing Up – Born Standing Up
Original release: January 2014
From the time Patton Ford, chief songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for the band, Born Standing Up, heard the likes of Otis Redding and Uncle Dave Macon while in the passenger’s seat of his father’s truck as a youngster growing up in Oxford, Mississippi, he knew he had to “respond to these legends, talk back and share his stories, the same way they had done before him.”
Ford began writing songs at a family friend’s cabin in the spring of 2011. With just a guitar and his voice, he began constructing what would eventually become the songs for Born Standing Up’s eponymous debut.
MP3: “No. 9“ – Born Standing Up from Born Standing Up
After drummer Logan Little suggested his vocally-trained girlfriend, Allison Quick, sing along with Ford on the songs, the three joined forces and performed their first show in Oxford early in 2012.
Because of the grand reception they received, the trio realized they needed a bass player and a second guitarist, and ended up recruiting musician Knowlton Bourne into the band. Soon after, the band dropped their indie folk mixed with alternative country infused debut, featuring remarkable songs like “No. 9” and “Cane Break.”
“Indie rock is anyone with a guitar, laptop, microphone or a melody stuck in their head,” Bourne wrote in response to a question ‘what is indie rock?’ He continued: “It is anyone who can’t go a day without tapping their foot to the sound of music or humming a few words under their breath. Indie music is the future of music. It is something that does not reside in arenas or stadiums…[it] is humble, raw and real.”
Not surprisingly, the band’s musical inspirations include artists such as The Lumineers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Shovels & Rope, The Decemberists, Todd Snyder, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle.
Born Standing Up on Facebook
Waterwells – Waterwells
Original release: March 2015
And lastly, we are happy to present the unsigned alternative folk rock trio Waterwells from Birmingham, Alabama, who dropped a terrific self-titled debut EP in March of 2015 that we’ve spun a number of times in the cafe.
Early in 2014, after a year and a half of performing and recording together under the founder and singer/songwriter’s name, Chris K. Davidson, the trio of Davidson, Jeremy Allinder on bass, and Josh Argo on guitar, morphed into Waterwells.
The guys got to work instantly – writing, recording, mixing and mastering songs DIY-style at Les Nuby‘s (Verbena, Vulture Whale) Homewood, Alabama recording studio. For the final recording, the band needed a drummer – that’s when they found Jacob Freeman.
“By My Side“ – Waterwells from Waterwells
Waterwells delivers an authentic, rich, mellow folk rock sound drenched in reverb and acoustics, communicating “tales of failure, hope, and reconciliation,” Davidson writes, adding that Waterwells is “determined to make its mark on the ever-changing sonic landscape.”
After listening to songs like “Morning Light” and “By My Side” many times, Waterwells debut EP is certainly on our list of DIY indie folk releases worth a listen. Fans of Wilco, Conor Oberst and Deer Tick are the most likely to be receptive to Waterwells.
The band has opened for artists like Joel Madison Blount, Early Americans, Oh Jeremiah, The Heavy Hearts, and Tangible Green. Among their musical influences are John Mark McMillan, Ryan Adams, Nada Surf, and Judah & The Lion.