When I started writing this “Artist Picking Artists” series, I knew I would be reaching out to John Durham at some point, for a whole host of reasons. His work with The LOZ Band, April B & the Cool, and The Local Green Family band make him a hugely influential artist on the local scene, not to mention his contributions behind the scenes that recently earned him the inaugural “864 Award” at the Upstate Music Awards. Beyond that, he is a genuinely nice guy who I always enjoy talking to about music and I was eager to have a conversation with him on this subject.
Imagine, then, my surprise to find out that “mind reading” is in Durham’s skill set as he reached out to me a couple weeks ago, not just with an offer to provide a list of his own, but with an already completed list attached (along with additional story ideas that we will share another day). Three of the four artists were brand new to my ears, two are former Upstate residents, and all are well deserving of a place on your next Spotify playlist.
Fall of an Empire
I admit to being unfamiliar with Fall of an Empire but they topped Durham’s list with the recommendation to start with the track “Croweater” so that is exactly what I did. A big, hard rock sound reminiscent of what I listened to a lot of in college is not what I expected to find on a John Durham penned list of recommendations, but I am digging every bit of it. I do not know how these guys were not already on my radar but, I assure you, they are now.
I am actually surprised we got this deep into this series before we talked about Greenville based rapper Shyland Flowers. I could argue that he stole the show at the Upstate Music Awards and his music has been rotating through my playlist ever since. This is raw, honest storytelling at its best and I add bonus points for the track “For the Wire” which pays homage to my favorite television series of all time (HBO’s The Wire). Durham recommends starting with Flowers’ album R U Shoeless? and I could not agree more.
Durham says: “McWavy is an awesome composer/keyboardist/sax player who regularly puts out consistently great, lush electronic stuff. Currently lives… up North somewhere, but was a Converse College attendee and good friends with Audrey Hamilton.”
“up North somewhere” is actually Baltimore, Maryland but besides that minor detail this recommendation is spot on. I am pretty sure the track “Sunday Vibes” will be playing in my home for countless Sunday mornings to come.
Durham says: “Ben Cook was the drummer for the Dipping Skinnies which were almost a sarcastically fratastic band of Clemson frat dudes, but they were great songwriters. I love his stuff because it’s just unabashed grunge written by someone who, due to age, certainly doesn’t remember a world when Kurt was actually alive. “Comfort Me” sounds like a lost college radio hit from ’93.”
I could not write a better description than John gave me right here. “Comfort Me” (and every track I listened to after) took me right back to the early 90’s in all the right ways.
John Durham Projects
He would not tell you this, but John Durham himself is a big part of a lot of music you need to be listening to. The “stoner pop” sound that is The LOZ Band is always a fascinating listen, as is the jazz/hip-hop/R&B fusion that is April B & the Cool. Durham is a key part of both bands, as well as the puppet master behind the Local Green Family Band, a collective of local artists that seemingly never assembles in the same lineup twice.
I want to give a huge thank you to John Durham for his contributions, both here and to the Upstate music scene in general. Now, start clicking some links and go enjoy some music. I’ll see you back here next week with another great list.