By Matt Wickstrom, Kentucky.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. — From J.D. Crowe to Bill Monroe, Nappy Roots and Tyler Childers, Kentucky has long had a rich musical tradition that in recent years has drawn national attention.
Childers, The Wooks, Joslyn & The Sweet Compression and Magnolia Boulevard had big momentum in 2019.
Here are three local artists you should have on your musical radar in 2020.
Home Grown Head Band
Bringing a heady mix of swamp-fueled southern rock to the heart of the bluegrass is Home Grown Head Band. Formed in 2015, the group of guitarist/vocalist Drew Cercone, trumpeter Will Philips, bassist Tyler Stamper and percussionist Evan Strippelhoff has taken a DIY approach to all aspects of the band including recording, laying down the tracks for their debut self-titled effort at Home Grown HQ – a sound-proofed area of Cercone’s home served as the band’s practice space.
Despite putting out that album last September, Cercone says the band has plans to record in 2020, hinting at a collaborative project featuring former Sundy Best co-founder Kristofer Bentley and Brett Higgins of pop-rap duo Prototype channeling hip-hop and R&B vibes coming in the spring. In addition to recording, the band has plans to hit new markets in the Northeast U.S. along with with upcoming shows on Jan. 18 and Feb. 4 at The Burl and Feb. 7 at the Green Lantern.
Lexington and Louisville based rock group Mojothunder set aside their rough around the edges garage rock aesthetic by welcoming soulful frontman Sean Sullivan into the mix in late 2018. Sullivan’s high-flying vocal acrobatics are a welcome complement to the instrumental fury brought forth by guitarist Bryson Willoughby, bassist Andrew Brockman and drummer Zac Shoopman. The resulting sound is a bourbon-soaked mash-up of rock, blues and soul that sees Mojothunder reaching into the past and walking in step with fellow Kentucky rock brethren such as the Kentucky Headhunters and Taildragger while also bringing a new energy and perspective to the state’s budding rock scene.
The band has tentative plans to jump back into the studio in 2020 at Barrick Recording Studio in Glasgow, the same site they recorded last year’s Loose Lips EP, their first with Sullivan at the helm. Mojothunder’s first hometown show of the year will be on Jan. 4 at The Burl in support of Sour Cream.
A familiar name to Lexingtonians from his time as half of hook-filled country duo Sundy Best, Prestonsburg-based singer-songwriter Nicholas Jamerson has had his nose to the grindstone the last two years crafting new material and hitting the road as a solo artist.
In between writing and playing throughout Kentucky and up and down the east coast, Jamerson found time to record three albums’ worth of material with a fourth set to arrive in the spring.
The artist’s latest effort will feature backing band the Morning Jays. The album will be Jamerson’s most polished solo effort to date and features a mix of the artist’s most popular cuts along with others that to this point have been held close to his chest that vividly portray the beauty, anguish, triumphs and unheralded heroes of Eastern Kentucky.
Jamerson’s next Central Kentucky show will be on Jan. 9 at the West T. Hill Community Theatre in Danville.
More to Watch
- Empowering songbird Abby Hamilton, who plans to release singles throughout 2020 recorded with Duane Lundy of the Lexington Recording Company along with long-standing songwriting collaborations with fellow artists like Grayson Jenkins and Chelsea Adams;
- Honky tonky bluegrass troupe Dark Moon Hollow, who are expecting to drop their debut album in 2020 following the group’s first full year playing together, highlighted by a July performance at FloydFest in Virginia – an event that also included familiar faces The Wooks, Magnolia Boulevard and…
- Driftwood Gypsy, who plan to release a follow-up to their soul-fried, rock’n jams of their 2018 debut effort;
- Joslyn & The Sweet Compression have tentative plans to jump back into the studio to begin work on their next full-length effort in February and March ahead of a summer/fall release in addition to performing at clubs and festivals in over a dozen states and counting;
- Angsty teenage rock trio Sour Cream and surf punk outfit Whalerus, each of which will celebrate new releases on the first weekend of 2020 at The Burl, with Whalerus taking the stage on Jan. 3 followed by Sour Cream on Jan. 4, and;
- Fiery prog rockers Bandit Sun, melodic folksters Bear Medicine, nostalgic Morehead-based rockers Bedford Band, hip-hoppin’ rockers Ivy Rye, electrified country King Laid Back Country Picker, jam-grassers Restless Leg String Band and psychedelic alt-folk foursome Wayne Graham all have new music on tap for the new year, leaving plenty for fans of Kentucky music to feast their eyes and ears on.
- From East Kentucky to Eastern Germany? Band’s had quite a musical journey
- Not his first rodeo: Sundy Best’s Nicholas Jamerson returns to Bulls, Bands and Barrels
- Which local bands should you be looking for – and listening to – in 2019?
- Restless Leg String Band working hard to have a good time on new album