The Bay Area’s love for Americana, country and bluegrass music manifests most visibly during the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which draws 750,000+ people to Golden Gate Park annually — but there are great twangy sounds coming out of the Bay all year round.
Venues like the Plough & Stars, the Lucky Horseshoe, Amnesia, and Armando’s in Martinez, as well as Twang Sundays at Thee Parkside, are fertile incubators for local roots acts. Plenty of those acts, like the Brothers Comatose, have subsequently ascended to the larger stages of rock venues like the Great American Music Hall and the Independent, and become nationally touring names.
This mixtape spotlights 15 local bands in the Americana, bluegrass, and country universes. The mix’s big tent approach is, on some level, reflective of the many permutations of roots music that Bay Area artists continue to explore. That’s not to say that we haven’t included some more traditional country and honky-tonk artists, like the throwback sounds of the B Stars and Laura Benitez and the Heartache.
A number of the bands in this mix, however, might be more considered more alternative. Take for example, the alt-Americana of We Became Owls and Wild Couch’s alt-country sound. Perhaps unsurprisingly, several of the singer-songwriters included here are originally from the midwest or the south, with Kelly McFarling hailing from Georgia, M. Lockwood Porter from Oklahoma, and Nate Baker from Indiana. All three imbue their folk-rock with the richness of Americana.
While most of the artists in the mix are relatively new — a sign of the continued endurance locally of the time-tested roots music world — it seems only appropriate to conclude with a song from Red Meat, both because they’re an excellent SF band, and their tenure is a reminder that the Bay’s interest in country music isn’t some recent or passing fad.
Laura Benitez and the Heartache – “Heartless Woman”
Kelly McFarling – “Ridgeline”
China – “Pinwheels Spinning”
We Became Owls – “Table for One”
Wild Couch – “Highway”
Goodnight, Texas – “A Bank Robber’s Nursery Rhyme”
Slow Motion Cowboys – “Bisbee”
The Brothers Comatose – “Brothers”
Eight Belles – “Darkness in Me”
Nate Baker – “Better When You Were Blue”
Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers – “Queen of the Rodeo”
M. Lockwood Porter – “Mountains”
Halcyonaire – “Star Eyes”
The B Stars – “Still Waiting”
Red Meat – “City Slicker (live)”