In line with the likes of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, Dead Soldiers isn’t here to romanticize the South. Instead, the group fields its own ideas of life below the Mason-Dixon line. Poverty, mental illness and institutionalized racism are at the heart of Dead Soldiers’ discography. Compared to 2013’s full-length debut, last year’s High Anxiety offers a welcome change of pace. A mix of acoustic and electric, the four-song EP solidifies the group’s folk-rock sound with swaying rhythms backing rollicking refrains.
Sounds like — Progressive bluegrass
Check out — “Nobody’s Son”
Deering and Down
When budding musician Lahna Deering met established bandleader Rev. Neil Down in Skagway, Alaska, in 1998, Down knew he had found his musical match. It wasn’t long before the pair released its debut Coupe de Villa — a foot-tapping, rock ‘n’ roll number — and began touring the U.S. By 2007, the indie duo decided to make its way to Memphis one last time. Lead single “You’re the One” paves the way for more after 2009’s Out There Somewhere, a breathtaking tribute to the sounds of the city.
Sounds like — Sultry folk
Check out — “You’re the One”
Relatively quiet since 2012’s eponymous debut, Hi Electric remains one to watch. Championing unadulterated vocals and loud guitars, the group began as a backing band for Neil Bartlett. Dave Shouse of Grifters and Steve Selvidge of The Hold Steady were the original musketeers, later giving way to Alan Yee on bass and Henry Talbot on drums. High Electric’s first release garnered local critical acclaim and thrust the group into the indie-rock spotlight.
Sounds like — Pop rock
Check out — “Talking to Yourself”
Dive-bar staple Devil Train has been a fixture at the Buccaneer Lounge on Monroe Avenue since 2005. The five-piece plays Memphis soul and gypsy jazz and is heavy on the strings. Clint Wagner favors the fiddle, whereas Jonathan Ciaramitaro prefers the mandolin. The two also take the lead on vocals and guitar, with James Ray also coming in on his acoustic. National Bluegrass Banjo Champion Randal Morton is at the top of his game, and JD Westmoreland bumps theupright bass. Graham Winchester smooths it out with slickpercussion.
Sounds like — Bluegrass
Check out — “Little Black Cloud”
The Ellie Badge
A blistering mix of electro-infused pop punk, The Ellie Badge is reminiscent of early 2000s-era emo pop. The alter ego of twentysomething Jeremiah Matthews, The Ellie Badge tackles adolescence and adulthood, lousy friends and lost lovers. And after a handful of EPs, 2014’s full-length Vs. All Your Problems offers a highly-anticipated dose of a angst and despair.
Sounds like — Indie punk
Check out — “Friends With New Haircuts”