In honor of Bandcamp waiving their feeds for indie artists and motivated by my friend Tom Critchlow, I’d like to recommend two artists that stopped me in my tracks the moment I heard them: Sierra Ferrell and Casper Allen.
I have a few hobbies that exist in what I’ll call the “epistemological sweet spot”: I know enough to identify what I enjoy, but not so much that I’m no longer pleasantly surprised. For example, I know I like red wine from South America, but I have no grasp of the best years, brands, and vineyards. I just know whenever I pick up a few bottles at the liquor store I will be pleasantly surprised—and that’s enough for me. It’s one of those private joys I’m sure we all have.
Musically, “epistemological sweet spot” is blues and folk music. I have a stack of vinyl records I add to as I discover new classic and modern artists. But it’s a joy that’s purely personal, I have no desire to be an expert or to discuss it anywhere other than in my living room nodding along to some Son House.
I attended the Americana Festival in Nashville this year and as my friend and Matt and I bounced from venue to venue, there were two artists that I continue to think about. The kind of musical performances that make your heart ache because you realize there is so much god damn talent out in the world that you will never get to see no matter how much you search.
I was at a Nashville City Winery when I heard Sierra Ferrell. She was an opening act for another artist. Normally you’d have a crowd of people half-listening while the audience grabs a beer and prepares for the main act. Thirty seconds into Sierra Ferrell nobody was moving or speaking, all eyes were on stage. The tension built with each song until the finale in which the now-packed venue erupted into applause. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Casper Allen is the reincarnation of the aforementioned Son House. A gravelly, grief-stricken voice that belongs in a prison chain gain. I saw Casper in an attic with 15 other people where he ended the show with “Grinnin’ in your face.” One of my life’s wishes is that he releases a full-length LP. For now, enjoy his Bandcamp and this performance on GemsOnVHS:
I hope you enjoy these two as much as I do!