Last year, we highlighted some of our favorite up-and-coming roots musicians who, acoustic instruments aside, embody the punk rock spirit. From one man band Possessed by Paul James to punk-turned-troubadour John Moreland, the nine players listed shared many of the qualities essential to punk music: DIY mindsets, balls-to-the-wall shredding, and a tendency toward the political.
Since then, we've seen a number of new acts who, regardless of whether their actual sound makes you want to listen to mclusky, are carrying the punk torch just as loud and proud as that first batch. Check out a handful of our favorites:
The Bones of J.R. Jones
Similar to Possessed by Paul James from our first installment, New York-based artist Jonathan Linaberry, known to fans as the Bones of J.R. Jones, has been known to play guitar and drums while singing his eerie, blues-influenced folk songs. His latest album, Spirit's Furnace, marries the DIY ethic of his live show with the knack for storytelling for which he has come to be known.
Parker Millsap may be making waves in the Americana world with his raw vocals and wry tales of evangelical truck drivers, but it's "Heaven Sent," a tune from his most recent album, The Very Last Day, that earns him a spot here. The song finds Millsap inhabiting the mind of a young, Christian, gay man seeking reassurance from both his father and his Father, making for a statement that feels far more personal than political.
Much ado has been made about Margo Price and her debut album, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, but it's the 13-year journey — fraught with waiting tables and waiting on a big break — that brought Price to Third Man Records and the Saturday Night Live stage that makes her one of the most punk rock artists in our community. That, and those hard-scrabble songs about drinking and jail.
A lot of punk players show off their cred with their gear, and West Virginia player Sam Gleaves is no exception with his rainbow-colored banjo strap. On "Ain't We Brothers," the openly gay Gleaves, whose grassroots efforts have earned him the attention of outlets like NPR, explores the struggles of homosexuality in small-town life, making him one of the first Applachian voices to do so.
Getting the attention of outlets like The FADER and Rolling Stone at the wee age of 14 thanks to some stellar at-home recordings, Sammy Brue, a Utah-by-the-way-of-Portland songwriter who pals around with Justin Townes Earle and has the songwriting chops to boot, is about as DIY as you can get.
While many hear the word "punk" and think angry, Julien Baker — who wrote most of her stellar debut album, Sprained Ankle, in her dorm room at MTSU — reminds us it has a sad side, too, one that is as thoughtful as it is emotive.