MUSIC BOX: Wyoming sounds to put to your radar

By on November 19, 2013
From rowdy country-grass to chick rockers, Wyoming songwriters are making waves in the region.
From rowdy country-grass to chick rockers, Wyoming songwriters are making waves in the region.

From rowdy country-grass to chick rockers, Wyoming songwriters are making waves in the region.

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Before the winter season launches into a buffet of live shows, it’s time to peruse the corners of Wyoming to give you a heads-up on a handful of bands and songwriters to keep an ear out for.

Luke Bell (Cody)
Bell’s Canadian tuxedo helps paint his Guthrie-esque troubadour status, but he’s more than a rambling folk artist. Born in Kentucky, raised in Cody, briefly schooled in Laramie, and then propelled recently to Austin, Texas, to record his second album to analog tape, singer-songwriter Luke Bell brings a natural feeling to stripped-down country-folk, soulful acoustic blues and light-hearted bluegrass. In the spring of 2012, he wrote and produced his self-titled debut. Bringing to mind John Prine’s phrasing and the modern edged Justin Townes Earle, Bell is beyond his years in song demeanor. If he’s not the next biggest thing across the state, maybe it’s because he has moved elsewhere.

The Patti Fiasco (Wyoming/Fort Collins)
Members of quintet The Patti Fiasco are all Wyoming natives, forming in Laramie before making the move south to the bigger market of Fort Collins, Colo. They recently trucked their electric dobro-driven rock-and-roll to Lafayette, La., to play for more than 1,000 people as a part of the SpokesBUZZ bandswap program. Zealous frontwoman, songwriter and guitarist Alysia Kraft has the flare to keep audiences engaged at live shows, and rallies a particular song craft that infuses folk, pop and chick-rock full of two and three-part vocal harmonies. Check out their new album, Small Town Lights, which earned 4.5 of 5 stars from FoCo’s Scene Magazine and debuted at number five on the Colorado Music Chart. And, they have a song called “Wyoming is for Lovers.”

J Shogren

J Shogren (Laramie/Centennial)
Shogren is an anomaly among songwriters, and an anomaly among economists. The Renaissance man happens to be accomplished in both. Push aside that Shogren is a former advisor to both President Clinton and the king of Sweden, as well as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Across three albums since 2008, Shogren’s sound can be best described as hard acoustic music, reminiscent of 1920-1940s blues and dance-hall music filtered through a contemporary dissonant transmitter. Whether solo, duo or with a larger ensemble, the mandolin/guitar player is like the distant, Wyoming-born cousin of quirky songster Bonnie Prince Billy.

John Kirlin & the High Plains Drifters (Casper)
According to Governor’s Arts Award recipient and singer-songwriter Jalan Crossland, “[John Kirlin and the High Plains Drifters] has got all that youthful vitality and vigor.” The raw and rowdy country-grass band is led by John Kirlin on mandolin and lead vocals, supported by guitarist Gabe Dunbar, bassist Chris Campbell, and Andrew Boyle on the drums. In the same wheelhouse as The Dirt Daubers, the quartet has been playing music together in different bands for the better part of a decade, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2009 that they decided to go acoustic and form the Drifters.

Beatgrass (Cheyenne)
A string quartet, Beatgrass represents the Front Range jamgrass aesthetic that has trickled into southern Wyoming. Not far from the familiar path of Greensky Bluegrass or Railroad Earth, this tight outfit of fast pickers and vocalists isn’t scared to diversify the set list, recently covering Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun?” and diving into everything else from jazz standards to Motown hits.

Teka Brock Band (Sheridan/Buffalo)
From her 2012 album of the same name, Brock’s tune “307” defines the essence of her sound – a clean, pretty country-rock vocal over a bed of wandering pedal steel and easy backbeat. Teetering between Miranda Lambert country and Allison Krauss Americana, the former rodeo competitor writes and sings of drinkin’ hooch, the touring life and raging rivers.

About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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