Five to Discover: Acts You Need to Know

In this – the age of the Coronavirus – many of us are stuck at home, isolated with only TV screens and the glow of laptops and phones to keep us connected. In other words, there isn’t much to do.

Videos by American Songwriter

However, one thing that is available to us all is the wide world of recorded music. And now is as good a time as ever to get to know some bands you may not have heard of but ones that you will assuredly enjoy, dear reader.

So, buckle up and get ready for a digital ride around Seattle, Haleiwa (Hawaii), Nashville, Colorado Springs (Colorado) and Oakland.

Shaina Shepherd, “Back of the Bus,” Seattle
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It’s hard to imagine a more powerful voice existing on earth. And, of course, power comes in many forms. Strength and force is one definition. As is the ability to move the human spirit. As is the ability to lure the eye. As is the ability to surprise the ear. And melt the heart. Here, the Emerald City’s Shaina Shepherd does all with the nimble agility of the rain. It’s hard to believe anyone could turn away from something so – yes – powerful. But for those that do, good luck in the cold.

Ron Artis II, “Searching for Answers,” Haleiwa
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One of the most satisfying aspects of loving music is the moment you discover a new favorite artist. (With hope, you’ve done that at least a few times in this column, dear reader). Either way, we believe you will here again with Ron Artis II, who is part Gary Clark Jr., part Leon Bridges and all soul. Not only is Artis II a skilled musician, he’s a truth teller. “We’re searching for answers,” he belts. Yes, we are. And Artis II is certainly one to look to for them in abundance.

Matt Lovell, “Trouble,” Nashville
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Matt Lovell sings like your favorite rubber ball bouncing down the hallway. He’s part Adam Levine, part Jack Johnson, part Norah Jones and, in the end, something entirely his own. We also have a soft spot in our hearts for those creative folks who can make a compelling music video without bells and whistles and Lovell does so with, essentially, just a chair and some sparkles. Follow this artist wherever he goes.

Xanthe Alexis, “Compass,” Colorado Springs
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Singer-songwriter, Xanthe Alexis, sounds like a recovered postcard from World War II. Her voice is somehow burnt at the edges. Her melodies yellowed from years in the light. But there is something so fundamental about taking in the stuff word by word borne from a time capsule. Just as it was when it was composed, her song, “Compass,” rings as many bells of the heart today.

Naima Shalhoub, “Two (Rivers in the Desert),” Oakland
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A warm western wind jumps at your shoulders. You turn and see cacti, a snake darting underneath a stone. Suddenly you disintegrate into sand and blow across the plains. Part of you travels toward the sun before being blown back to the desert. Part of you lands on the eyelashes of a mouse. Part of you churns into the earth again. You rise from the sand, you see mountains. You are a song sung by Naima Shalhoub.

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