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In A Genre of Their Own

While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on musical genres, I have listened to a fair share of music in my time and truly dig songs from all types of genres. Usually I stay within the same 4 or 5 genres (namely classic rock, jam bands, reggae, bluegrass, and folk) but can’t help but love when musicians mix genres, cross genres, or create new ones all of their own. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a huge success but when it does work, it is one awesome sound…take for example the Easy Star All-Stars reggae remake of Pink Floyds’ Dark Side of the Moon.  Even more appealing is when I come across a group with its’ own sound that really doesn’t fit into one of the traditional genres.  The three bands below have only been releasing albums for the past 5-10 years, but they are so unique and so good at what they do I believe they deserve a genre all of their own and therefore I have taken the liberty to create some new genres for them.

Artist: J.J. Grey & Mofro New Genre: “Swamp Rock Funk”
While it is hard to compare J.J. Grey & Mofro to any other artist I have ever listened to, they could arguably possess the smoothness of Marvin Gaye, the funk of Stevie Wonder, the jams of Curtis Mayfield, and the masterful organ playing of Gregg Allman. Add to these resemblances some amazing harmonica playing and a screaming slide guitar, and you have one of the best bands to surface this decade. When you first listen to Mofro, you might envision a rundown house on a dirt road in a small Mississippi town back in the 1960’s. You can imagine a couple of guys sitting on the front porch on a blistering hot summer day singing about the good times and the bad times. There’s no audience, just soulful sounds and heartfelt lyrics that make you feel like you were sitting on that same front porch. The brilliance of J.J. Grey & Mofro is that they are a couple of white guys from southern Florida who weren’t even born in the 1960’s, yet their songs tell stories that bring you back in time when things were simpler. Do yourself some justice and listen to everything these guys have released….it’s that damn good!

Artist: Xavier Rudd New Genre: “Didgie Jam”
Imagine a voice that resembles Paul Simon, rhythms that compare to Bob Marley & The Wailers, and slide guitar playing that would make Ben Harper jealous. Now add the unique and mesmerizing sounds of the didgeridoo and you”ll have a sound the echoes that of Australian native Xavier Rudd. The first time I heard Rudd was live at the 2004 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. A group of us were heading back to our campsite when we were stopped dead in our tracks by a gratifying sound coming from one of the side stages. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard a the striking vibrations of a didgeridoo before, it was the fact that on stage there was one guy sitting on a stool playing an unbelievable jam with 5 different didgeridoos, a slide guitar, and the drums…that’s right, one guy! Since then, Xavier Rudd has added a full band and has expanded his offerings with a darker sound that features more slide guitar and deeper jams (as evidenced in its latest album Darker Shades of Blue). Even though he has shown an impressive range in his sounds, Xavier still sticks to his island roots and produces the kind of music that can turn a bad day into a good one!

Artist: Railroad Earth New Genre: “Bluegrass Jam Rock”
One of the members of Railroad Earth classifies themselves as “an amplified string band with drums” while another member says they are “a Country & Eastern Band.” However, the resemblance that might be missing the most from the bands’ description of themselves is that they are also a “Rock and Roll Band”! Before the band ever released its first album, an organizer for the world famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival got a hold of one of Railroad Earth’s studio sessions and they were quickly added to the lineup. Listening to the voice of lead singer Todd Sheaffer might remind you of little bit of Jerry Garcia, but there is a range to his voice that will be sure to surprise you. The bands’ last album, Amen Corner, has a harmony and flow that will give you goose bumps. It is a beautiful collection of songs that all have a sense of optimism to them, making it hard not to tap your foot and wear a big smile. Whether you are a country fan, a jam band fan, or a bluegrass fan, Railroad Earth is sure not to disappoint.