As a longtime, hardworking Nashville songwriter, Margo Price finally got her due last year with the debut album “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.” To make the powerfully honest record, Price’s husband and bandmate, bassist Jeremy Ivey, sold his car to pay for a three-day session at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis. Then Price found an ally in Jack White, who brought the album to the world through release on his Third Man Records. Following a whirlwind breakout period that saw Price playing Saturday Night Live as well as singing with John Prine, Kris Kristofferson and Ryan Adams, her first record won the 2017 American Music Prize for Best Debut Album back in March.
It’s easy to understand the critical appeal. Price’s voice is sweet and sturdy, in the vein of Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn, and, like them, she’s startlingly open about her personal tragedies in songs that use traditional country as a base to get gritty and soulful. The heartache feels tangible in “Hands of Time,” a six-minute tearjerker about her family’s economic hardship and the death of her newborn son. She’s turning life’s troubles into beautifully raw and inspirational music.
Appearing at: Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Marcus King Band
At just 21 years old, Marcus King has the voice of a seasoned juke joint veteran and the chops of a well-worn Southern rock guitar hero. King grew up in South Carolina as the son of a bluesman, and his talent has already been discovered by some of the best in the music business. The eponymous album by his six-piece band was produced by Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes and one of the record’s highlights, “Self Hatred,” features King trading guitar licks with Derek Trucks. King and his band can definitely jam, moving deftly between funk, rock and swampy grooves, but they also know when to tone it down and deliver soulful tunes like “Ain’t Nothing Wrong” and “Sorry ‘bout Your Lover.”
Appearing at: Ride Festival, Targhee Fest
Progressive bluegrass quintet Front Country made an impact in Colorado before taking the broader string scene by storm. Back in 2012, the then-newly-formed group won the band competition at Rockygrass and the following year earned the same honor at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Through the rustic scope of wood and wire, the band creates a dynamic roots-pop sound, led by the soaring vocals of frontwoman Melody Walker. Her voice mingles with the skilled string work of some accomplished pickers, including mandolin wiz Adam Roszkiewicz and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Groopman, offering fresh, song-centric perspective in a field of solo-hungry string bands. The group’s second full-length record, “Other Love Songs,” just dropped back in April.
Appearing at: Estes Park Mountain Music Festival, Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival, Rockygrass
St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Crowds can’t stand still when witnessing this eight-piece Alabama outfit, which specializes in classic Southern soul revivalism. The main attraction is Paul Janeway, a versatile vocal powerhouse, who looks like Drew Carey but sounds like Otis Redding and Al Green. Once on track to be a preacher, Janeway has million-dollar pipes that he uses to howl with fiery intensity and croon with tender-hearted sincerity. On the band’s latest album, last year’s “Sea of Noise,” tempos shift between the down-and-dirty funk of “Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like),” the moving retro ballad “Burning Rome” and the gospel-rock unity anthem “All I Ever Wonder.” In a short time together, the group has gained some famous fans. They’ve opened for the Rolling Stones and just a few months ago Elton John had them play at his Oscar Party.
Appearing at: Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience
The Record Company
This emerging L.A. trio takes the foundation of blues greats like John lee Hooker, and amps things up with the distorted bombast of the Stooges. As the band name suggests, its members, guitarist and lead vocalist Chris Vos, bassist Alex Stiff and drummer Marc Cazorla, bonded while listening to vinyl favorites together on a back porch. That spiraled into living room jams that eventually yielded the band’s lauded debut, last year’s “Give It Back to You.” The album’s breakout single, “Off the Ground,” is soaked in the fuzz of early Black Keys with less garage slop and more full-throttle groove. Over a short period of time, these guys have been honing their sound with relentless gigs in small clubs and on arena stages opening for John Mayer.
Appearing at: Targhee Music Festival, Red Rocks Amphitheatre opening for Trombone Shorty