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  • Rich Kassirer

6 Artists to Watch: Lissie, Smoke Fairies, Dawes, Dawn Landes, Anais Mitchell, Cory Chisel


Latest album: “Why You Runnin’ ” (EP)

Where we first heard of her: A friend at work/ “World Cafe” radio show

What we like: On first glance you may wonder how old this hippie chick-looking singer-songwriter is. But the 27-year-old Lissie Maurus, who goes just by her first name, has a seasoned voice that falls somewhere between Neko Case and Sheryl Crow and sounds like she’s been around for years. Her five songs on “Why You Runnin’,’’ speak mostly of heartbreak and resolve and are backed by guitars, drums, and keys. The opener, “Little Lovin’, simmers along before opening into a romp. A cover of Hank Williams’ “Wedding Bells” fits in seamlessly. A full album is apparently in the works and if it is similar to “Runnin’,” we will be thrilled.

Song stuck in our heads: “Little Lovin”

Hear her music HERE


Latest album: “Ghosts” EP

Where we first heard of them: Saw a story about them in Teen Vogue (seriously, don’t ask!)

What we like: The British duo of Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire are unusual in that these young women would find their musical spirit buried in the folk blues of the Deep South of the United States. After spending some time in New Orleans, the pair found their calling. This is not happy music. Most of it is dark and entrancing with layered harmonies backed by acoustic guitars and some sparse bass and drums. The Fairies recently hooked up with the White Stripes’ Jack White, who was intrigued by their style and helped them release the single “Gastown.” Hopefully, the duo will record a full album soon. Right now “Gastown” is the only song downloadable from the American version of iTunes.

Song stuck in our heads: “Gastown”

Hear their music HERE


Latest album: “North Hills”

Where we first heard of them: CD was playing at Newbury Comics

What we like: When we first heard Dawes our impression was that they sounded like a California version of the Avett Brothers. Upon further review, we will stick with that even though others compare the band to everyone from Crosby, Stills & Nash to Fleet Foxes. But you get the picture: dreamy harmonies, lush acoustic-leaning instrumentation and lyrics of love lost and found. The quartet’s songs are a nice mix of soul and pop that could probably do with a little of that punkish edge the Avetts have. This is not to say Dawes can’t rock out – they do on a couple numbers. The next album should really let us know where this band is headed.

Song stuck in our heads: “When My Time Comes”

Hear their music HERE


Latest album: “Sweetheart Rodeo”

Where we first heard of her: Heard her CD “Fireproof” years ago

What we like: Potential. That’s what we hear in Dawn’s music and voice. In fact, when we first cracked open “Sweetheart Rodeo” and heard the opening tune, “Young Girl,” we shouted “Yeah! That’s what Dawn can be!” Sassy. Tough. Rocking. Well, the whole album doesn’t quite fulfill that. But there are moments that really get us excited. The song “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” has a great groove. At times it feels like Dawn’s not quite comfortable pushing those limits. Her quirky folk-pop tunes have plenty of style but sometimes quirky just seems quaint. In our opinion, she needs to push those boundaries and let loose. We saw her live and she has the ability to rock, it’s just whether she’s comfortable enough to do it.

Song stuck in our heads: “Young Girl”

Hear her music HERE


Latest album: “Hadestown”

Where we first heard of her: Saw her open Kris Delmhorst a couple years ago

What we like: It’s hard enough for a young songwriter to put out a full album of tunes. It is another thing altogether to create a concept album, and another thing still to base that album on the Greek myth Orpheus, and give it a modern feel. But that is what the Vermont-bred Mitchell does brilliantly on the 20-track “Hadestown.” Initially, a “folk opera” she brought to stages around New England, “Hadestown” is now an album featuring her musical friends playing the different roles: Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) sings Orpheus, Greg Brown as Hades and Ani DiFranco as Persephone,” to name a few. While best heard as a full album, the songs individually do stand on their own.

Song stuck in our heads: “Way Down in Hadestown”

Hear her music HERE


Latest album: “Death Won’t Send a Letter”

Where we first heard of them: On radio show “World Cafe”

What we like: Corey Chisel. Now that’s a name. His sound backs that up with some gruff and rough-life tunes. Chisel’s voice rises above a dirge of guitars, bass, and drums provided by members of Jack White’s Raconteurs. Chisel’s father was a Baptist minister so that first song “Born Again” is a direct comment on his upbringing, saying “I been feelin’ like my old self again/because momma didn’t raise me to be no Christian/and I been drinkin’ to my own health again/well raise another glass for the unforgiven.” Other tunes that stand out are “So Wrong for Me,’’ one of the quieter numbers, backed by female harmonies and the haunting “Mocking-bird.”

Song stuck in our heads: “Born Again”

Hear their music HERE

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