I’ve been a music lover my whole life. I dreamed of touching people with my own music, a dream that had a miniature, local to south-east Michigan, reality in the early 2000’s. At that stage of my life one of three things was going on. One possibility is that back then my musical tastes were far more diverse. A second possibility is that I’ve just become fare more picky in my musical tastes. Then there’s the possibility that this generations music is complete garbage. Maybe it’s a combination of these factors. Regardless of how you see it, if you’re anything like me you’ve found it harder and harder to find new music that you enjoy. The following is a list of bands that I’ve enjoyed for years, that write amazing music, however they aren’t really well known. A couple are still active, most are not, but if you can get your hands on the music of any of these artists, I believe you will enjoy it.
I discovered May Pole back in high school in the 90’s. I had gone to see the Wallflower’s with my father and brother at Hill Auditorium. May Pole happened to be the opener which didn’t make much sense to me because their style was entirely different than that of The Wallflowers, however I really enjoyed their music, especially their cover of Watch Your Step by Elvis Costello. Come to find out the band was formed by Tobi Miller, who was formerly with The Wallflowers. The music itself carries the typical 90’s rock sound, however the vocals aren’t easily compared to anybody else. Gritty… Growly… Graspy… (in fact three of the five bands here have this type of vocal) they worked great on the punchier rock numbers, and lend an entirely unique sound to the ballad Call It Pride.
The band only released one album called Product. It wasn’t extremely popular. In fact it’s pretty much impossible to find their music anywhere at all. It’s not on iTunes and if you search for them on Amazon.com, all you will find is a black and white promo photo for $30. I was able to track down one song that you can listen to on YouTube.
One Way Ride
One Way Ride is another band that I discovered completely by mistake when my friend and band mates Scott, Chris and I went to see Finger Eleven at the Shelter in Detroit. We weren’t quite sure what to think. We were there to see a good rock band, and these guys come walking out on stage with acoustic guitars and Heineken in cans. The singer without a shirt. They were drunk enough, I worried they may try to play their beer cans, instead of music, however once they started I was hooked and immediately went to the merch booth and picked up a copy of their album titled Straight Up. Another band with really gritty vocals but this time the texture of the music also contributed to their unique sound. Whether it’s a grittier tune like Painted Perfect, or the tender ballad Beautiful Blue, the acoustic guitars blend to create an absolutely unforgettable texture.
This is another band that didn’t really do much releasing, only one album to the best of my knowledge, although, their vocalist does have a poorly recorded song out on YouTube from the late 2000’s as well. Their music is more readily available than that of May Pole however. You can purchase it from both iTunes and Amazon.com.
Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers
Unlike the other groups on this list, if you’re my age there’s a good chance you actually have heard Roger Clyne and just don’t realize it. In 1996 Roger was the frontman of a band called The Refreshments who released a song called Banditos that many people know, but can’t tell you who recorded it. The band later went on to record the theme song for TV’s King of the Hill before they went their separate ways and Roger Clyne formed Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers; continuing the Mexican influenced southern rock style that was prevalent on both of The Refreshments major studio releases.
Also unlike the aforementioned artists, these Arizona natives are still active, having released two live albums and their seventh studio album titled The Independent just last week [April 29, 2014].
This is a group that you’ve likely not heard of for a very different reason than the rest. They are a german band. Unlike many bands in Germany who decide to write songs in English in an attempt to reach the world, Silbermond decided (after initially writing songs in English themselves) to write in their native tongue. I originally started listening to them during my German class in college, assuming that their music would help me learn the language. I never really learned the language very well, however, I kept listening and discovered a new way to listen to music. If you don’t necessarily understand the words you are free to experience the music itself. The raw emotion of the voice, and the notes take on a whole new form when you’re not focusing on the message of the written words themselves. It’s fun to then go translate a song here and there to see how accurate your vision was to the original message.
The band is still active and throughout their career has released several pop-rock albums. The rock varies in style from album to album, the earlier albums with a more punk flavor while their most recent album Himmel Auf (When the Heaven’s Open) has a sound more similar to Linkin Park’s, A Thousand Suns. It creates a mood from track one that carries and fluctuates throughout the entire album. The one thing that remains the same from album to album, however, are their ballads. There are several on each album, including most recently, Weisse Fahnen, which to my best translating efforts tells the story of a young man at war. If you’re looking for something a little different, give this group a listen.
I saved the best for last . . .
I miss the nights I would be in a dark smoky bar, the infectious grove of Shakin begins with the drums as the band begins to take the stage and layer on their parts before Nate finally takes the stage, making sure he gets another swig off that beer before the full band kicks in and, “Get the fuck up!” From the moment those words rolled off his tongue until the final note, nobody in the bar was sitting down. Unless you’re from south-east Michigan, this is the group on the list you’re probably least likely to be familiar with (barring the bonus artist listed at the end). I was fortunate enough to get to know these guys a little bit and play a couple of shows opening up for them. They released a total of five albums. Of the final three, two albums were with Producer Michael Lutz (Brownsville Station, Ted Nugent) and a final self produced album in 2006 before parting ways in 2007. “Personally, I just got tired of trying so hard to be noticed instead of concentrating on the actual music. And it was an expensive habit,” Nate told me. A frustration I could start to sense in Gone Tomorrow, one of the final tracks on their last record.
South Normal is one of the best rock bands I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in my life and it’s a damn shame that they didn’t make it on the national stage, where I’m sure they’d still be recording killer tracks to this day. Their first and third albums, which are both outstanding are available on iTunes, however their second album titled Book of Matches, which is my favorite is very hard to find. There is one used copy currently available on Amazon.com.
Of course if you’ve read the about the author page, you know I dreamt of being a rock star. What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t take the opportunity to plug my own music, even though I no longer really write any. I’ll keep it short and simple. You can listen to my single, Imagine, below, or purchase my album Skeletons and Ghosts on iTunes. You can also download the EP released by my last band, f/stop, titled All in Love is Fair on iTunes. If you would like to hear additional music of mine I’d be happy to oblige. Just make it known in the comments below.