For Day Three of this week’s What Five Bands Should Be Bigger Than They Are feature in response to NPR’s All Songs Considered buzz-generating article, we’re featuring three different responses (Monday and Tuesday were two). People are champing at the bit to voice their opinion on this topic and there’s no doubt that the fifty or so responses to come out of this weeklong feature are just the tip-of-the-iceberg. We’d love to hear your comments below.
For Wednesday, we’ve enlisted the help of our friend Randy Bayers, Editor of Funk It blog to chime in on this. His call on The Meters may just be the all-time example of a band that has never gotten the widespread adoration they so very much deserve. However, the tide may finally turn -- The Meters are nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2013!
RANDY BAYERS || EDITOR, FUNK IT (LOUISVILLE)
This super funk afro soul machine of a band has more than paid their dues with 5 albums and over 10 years of touring that includes well over 200 gigs per year in recent years. This is the best funk-n-soul band you’ve never heard. And that should change. Their self-produced 6th album, New You, will be released anytime now. Check them out on these live videos from earlier this summer.
The Lee Boys
You’ve heard of Robert Randolph and his shredding pedal steel guitar, but probably not The Lee Boys and their pedal steel guitar maverick Roosevelt “The Dr” Collier. This “family band” comes out of the same Sacred Steel tradition that birthed Robert Randolph and they are overdue for some attention. Their new album, Testify, is out now. You can sample a live recording of The Lee Boys with guest Oteil Burbridge here.
Mind blowing jazz/soul/hip-hop/improvising vocalist who gets his dues in Europe, yet neither of his first two albums even got an American release. That all changes when his Blue Note Records debut, No Beginning No End, drops in January. Here he is on a live AllSaints Basement Session:
Another jazz/soul/hip-hop/improvising vocalist that just doesn’t get the attention he deserves (Maybe this whole genre is just underappreciated). Part of the Soulquarians collective that includes Questlove, Erykah Badu & D’Angelo, Bilal is your favorite hip hop artist’s favorite vocalist. Listen to this audio recording of Bilal with Common back in 2000 to hear him belt it out with more soul and humor than any other contemporary soul singer out there.
They’ve been sampled by anyone and everyone that knows how to sample, probably more than any artist other than James Brown himself. They’ve left an indelible mark in the history of funk and hip-hop music and they definitely deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They were finally nominated this year and I have my fingers crossed that they make it in. Here is a live video of the original four founding members reuniting for a small club gig in their hometown last year during the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
BILLY MORGAN || CONTRIBUTOR, LIVE MUSIC BLOG (ATLANTA)
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo has been called the “quintessential critics band,” yet they continue to play small clubs to this day. They have released nothing but great albums their entire career dating back to the mid-80’s. They can play basically any genre of music. In the live setting you could hear indie rock, grunge, pop, and experimental psychedelia all in the same night. It is mind-boggling to me that this band still plays the venues they do, but I am certainly not complaining about continuing to see this band in intimate settings.
Galactic has been one of my favorite bands to see live for as long as I can remember and they are still playing the same rooms today as they were then. This band put out 3 fantastic records to start their career and continue to release killer music to this day with the release of this year’s Carnivale Electricos, which seemed to re-spark the bands popularity a bit, but certainly not to the level they belong. This band is about as fun to see live as anyone out there. If you don’t believe me, go see them at one of their famous Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest shows at Tipitinas in New Orleans. It is the definition of a party.
Medeski Martin & Wood
This is one of the most talented groups out there that has been touring with their unique brand of acid jazz since the early 90’s. They have received some praise in the jazz and jamband communities, but have had little to no mainstream exposure whatsoever. Depending on their mood, this band can bring a set of extremely abstract, experimental jazz that will have your head spinning or a set of funk fiery enough to burn a hole in the dance floor. This band never ceases to amaze me with their willingness to take risks on stage. This is and always has been a can’t miss band that deserves much more credit than they receive.
Steve Kimock is one of the greatest guitarists alive today and yet he is nowhere to be found on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Guitarists of All Time list, which is a complete joke I might add. This guy has been playing mind-blowing guitar with bands such as Zero, KVHW, Steve Kimock Band, and a number of Grateful Dead-related projects dating back to the mid 70’s and yet most people have never heard of him. Jerry Garcia was once quoted saying that Steve Kimock was “the best guitarist that no one had ever heard of.” That’s some pretty high and worthy praise right there. Do yourselves a favor and go see his new project with Bernie Worrell, Andy Hess, and Wally Ingram. You will not be disappointed.
It seems that no one is ever talking about Dr. Dog despite the fact that they have put out great records, one after another since they came onto the scene. I am not sure I have ever heard a truly bad song from them. They are pretty much all quality. These guys are great and tour constantly and deserve to be playing bigger rooms than they currently do. I’ll tell you this, they are a hell of a lot better than Kings of Leon and are more deserving of that level of success in my opinion.
Honorable Mention: Sigur Rós
This goes mainly for the United States, as I know they are much more popular overseas. This is probably the best band on the planet that most people have never heard of. Their music sounds like it was made by angels. These guys are just on another level and have the ability to tap into one’s soul like no other artist out there. If you don’t know the magic that is Sigur Rós, do yourself a favor and listen to ( ), one of their best albums, in a dark room with good headphones preferably submerged in a tub of cool water and try to tell me that your life is not different.
GREG CARUSO || CONTRIBUTOR, LIVE MUSIC BLOG (LOS ANGELES)
Maserati have been around for over a decade. While blending psychedelic sounds with prog-rock, they’ve managed to create four extremely enjoyable albums that each seem to transcend the last. Possibly with the exception of their last album, which I’ve not fully digested. Lately I feel they’ve been lumped into the hipster realm when really, they should be touring the jam circuits. They’d destroy opening up the Biscuits. (ON TOUR)
(Tragically, drummer Jerry Fuchs died a week after this)
With disco drenched synth beats colliding with rhythmic bass lines and driving guitar riffs, !!! set the perfect tone for any dance party. Throw in the stage antics and cheerleader mentality of singer Nic Offer and you have a show that not only find you sweating profusely, but wanting to go out and buy everyone of their albums. !!! have played most of the major festivals to rousing crowds, but have yet to find themselves in larger theaters based on their own impressive merit. (WEBSITE)
Granted, they’re new-ish and might not be for a list like this, but they’ve been opening up for a lot of big names lately (Mumford & Sons, Florence & The Machine). They don’t have an album yet, but it’s dropping soon. Produced by Blake Mills of Dawes fame, it’s bound to be a vehicle that will garnish these three rocking sisters plenty of attention. Los Angelenos should take note at their big headlining show at The Troubadour in December. (HAIM on Facebook)
Fans of unabashed, 70’s fueled rock, take notice of Howlin’ Rain. The band is extremely reminiscent of the likes of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Lead guitarist and singer Ethan Miller not only dresses the part of rock icon, but his vocal shrills and deft fret work will grab you on not let go. (Playing a 3-night NYE run @ Cafe Du Nord in S.F.).
Last but certainly not least, these San Diego natives are a band who’s albums have a lasting effect on even the most staunch of music snobs. They can simply do no wrong in the studio or on stage. From their debut, Ode to Sunshine, up to their most recent and self titled, Delta Spirit, the band conjures actual feelings of wonder, angst, hopefulness and even dread behind both their lyrics as well as the dynamic sound they’ve crafted. With them being primarily an indie-rock band by definition, they seem to have been adopted by the “jam” community. Having two High Sierra’s under their belt (and most recently this past Hangtown Halloween) and playing considerably larger rooms this tour (LA’s The Wiltern tomorrow night -- LMB is there!), it appears that the word is out and folks are beginning to pay the attention DS has always deserved (and earned via relentless touring and playing-like-their-life-depends-on-it intensity every night!). (ON TOUR NOW)
Come back tomorrow and Friday for more contributors and outside opinions on Bands That Should Be Bigger Than They Are!