American Rock and Roll — Austin, TX

Formed in Austin, Texas, the Band of Heathens became a band totally by accident. Songwriters Colin Brooks, Gordy Quist, and Ed Jurdi were all doing regular sets at Momo's in Austin when they began sitting in with each other, eventually making the whole thing one big show that they called the Good Time Supper Club, which was essentially three singer/songwriters in the round backed by a solid rhythm section of John Chipman on drums and Seth Whitney on bass. What started out as a spontaneous side project soon became a full-fledged rock & roll band. The group's first two albums were both live affairs, 2006's Live from Momo's and 2007's Live at Antone's (which was also released on DVD), while their third, simply called The Band of Heathens, was produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard and released in 2008 on BOH Records. A year later, the group released its second album, One Foot in the Ether, which again gained strong notices in Americana circles. A third album, Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster's Son, appeared in 2011, and then the group saw some lineup changes. Vocalist/guitarist Colin Brooks left the band in 2011 and, not long afterward, so did the rhythm section of bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chipman, giving co-leaders Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist the opportunity to redefine the band on their 2013 album, Sunday Morning Record. ~ Steve Leggett




Americana, Rock, Blues, Soul — Knoxville, TN

A country act that fuses classic sounds with contemporary energy and attitude, the Black Lillies were formed in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2009 by singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Cruz Contreras, a former member of Robinella & the CC Stringband. Joining Contreras in the lineup were guitarist and pedal steel player Tom Pryor (formerly of the Everybodyfields), drummer and percussionist Jamie Cook (also of the Everybodyfields), bassist Robert Richards, and vocalist Trisha Gene Brady. The band, featuring a fresh blend of bluegrass, jazz, rock, country, and blues, with just a touch of string band Appalachia, began recording a debut album project in Contreras' home studio (which doubled as his living room) shortly after he parted ways with Robinella, with help from Leah Gardner on backing vocals, Billy Contreras on fiddle, and Taylor Coker on bass. The resulting album, Whiskey Angel, was independently released by the band in the spring of 2009 and quickly garnered positive critical attention, regular play on American stations, and a management and booking deal. The Black Lillies began touring steadily in support, and appeared at major music festivals, including Bonnaroo and Pickathon. In 2010, the Black Lillies announced they were at work on their second album, to be financed through a crowd-sourcing campaign; the response from fans was positive, and 100 Miles of Wreckage was released in the spring of 2011, once again to enthusiastic reviews and good sales. The Black Lillies' third album, Runaway Freeway Blues, released in March 2013, was another critical and commercial success; shortly after it was released, it was announced that drummer Jamie Cook was leaving the group, and Bowman Townsend, who had been touring with the group while Cook dealt with family matters, was their new full-time drummer. After plenty more touring and enthusiastic press, Cruz Contreras was writing material for the band's fourth album in early 2015 when he got the news that longtime collaborators Tom Pryor and Robert Richards had decided to leave the band. When the group rolled into the studio to begin recording, the Black Lillies brought along guest musicians Matt Smith on pedal steel guitar, Daniel Donato on six-string guitar, and Bill Reynolds (of Band of Horses) on bass. The album, Hard to Please, was released in October 2015, and when the Black Lillies returned to the road in support, Contreras, Brady, and Townsend were joined by three new recruits -- guitarist Mike Seal, pedal steel man Jonathan Keeney, and bassist Sam Quinn. ~ Steve Leggett & Mark Deming





Indie Rock, Folk Rock — Cincinatti, OH
Led by vocalist/guitarist Antony Ablan, the group has been building a substantial following around the Midwest for five years now, anchored by Ablan’s charismatic presence and a cohesiveness amongst the remaining members — bassist Ryan Carney, guitarist/vocalist Joseph Messing, drummer Chris Palmerin and keyboardist/woodwind player Kedgrick Pullums Jr. — unparalleled by their D.I.Y. brethren.


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