Always been a big fan of the beard. Maybe it's the man's man quality that the beard possesses. Maybe it just looks badass. I myself grew a considerable beard this past winter, though I'm ashamed to admit that the constant ridicule did play a hand in the shaving of it. As of late, it seems that a lot of the musicians I've really been digging all sport beards. Weird coincidence or do bearded people just kick ass musically? You be the judge. I've included some songs and pictures of my beloved bearded maestros. For the record, my beard had nothing on these gents. Not even close.
Sam Beam (aka Iron & Wine) - See previous post. I don't think this guy has made a song that I haven't liked. Seriously. And look at that beard. By the beard of Beam!! This picture is actually a couple years old and having seen him recently, believe me, the beard is even longer. Maybe he has a little muse hidden in his beard that sings to him and inspires the gorgeous melodies he writes.
Beard Factor - 9 out of 10
1. Naked As We Came (demo) courtesy of Aarvid at Passing Afternoon
2. Dead Man's Will
William Fitzsimmons - I'm really surprised that this guy has not gotten more attention than he has. I came across him while browsing the Stage Hymns blog (which I would highly recommend checking out). For starters, his music is amazing. Very similar to Iron & Wine, in terms of the melodies he crafts and his style of playing, but he also adds a drum machine to a number of his songs. If you are familiar with Iron & Wine, I'd say that William's album, Until When We Are Ghosts, is somewhere between The Creek Drank the Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days. If you are a fan of Iron & Wine, I'd highly recommend him.
Beard Factor - 8 out of 10
1. Find It In Me
Check out William Fitzsimmons' page on MySpace. If you'd like to download a copy of Until When We Are Ghosts, it can be found at www.mp3-extension.com.
Ray LaMontagne - The first time I had heard Ray's song "Trouble," I was blown away. That voice...my god. He does not have the kind of voice you hear everyday, but it sticks with you. It's what I'd sound like first thing in the morning after smoking two packs of cigarettes the night before, which doesn't sound too appealing, but believe me, it sounds amazing. Ray's new album, Till The Sun Turns Black, was released this week. For those of you expecting, Trouble Part 2, you are going to be disappointed. He is definitely evolving. A number of songs on the new album feature strings, which is always a plus in my opinion (I'm a sucker for strings). A lot has changed, but the voice, THAT voice, remains. Although the new album seems to lack the 'pop' appeal that Trouble held, the songs do sink in with repeated listenings.
Beard Factor - 7 out of 10 (he's definitely getting there...that thing has some serious potential)
1. Gone Away From Me (from Till The Sun Turns Black...buy it.)
2. Shelter (original version, taken from Lonesome Saddle)
3. Lead Me On (from the Green Demo)
Shelter and Lead Me On courtesy of the wonderful Heather over at I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS...it's named after a line in a Pearl Jam song, can I say any more?
My Morning Jacket - Their most current release, Z, got great reviews, so I decided to pick it up. At first, I didn't really see what all the hype was about. I wasn't quite sure what to make of them. I revisited the album a couple weeks before seeing them open for Pearl Jam this past June and it started to grow on me. I was not prepared for what they had to offer live. Even though they were only opening, I was blown away. They fucking rocked. Made me a huge fan.
For people who have never heard MMJ, I'd say it's a cross between Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Radiohead, and The Band. The high voice and distorted guitars with loads of reverb.
Beard Factor - 6 out of 10 (not crazy about their beards, but they get extra points because two members of the band are sporting beards)
1. One Big Holiday
3. Lay Low
These songs were taken from MMJ's 2005 performance at the Bonnaroo Festival, which can be purchased here. It's an amazing set and I highly recommend it. Their 2006 set should be available soon.
Band of Horses - These guys are blowing up right now...and rightfully so. First of all, I basically have to like them since Ben Bridwell (left) played a large part in getting Sam Beam signed to SubPop. Secondly, it's hard not to like them considering their debut album is an excellent record. It's got some slow fingerpicked songs and it's got some rockers. What's not to like? In some ways, they sound a lot like My Morning Jacket. Both bands soak their songs in reverb and Jim James of MMJ and Ben Bridwell have similar voices. If you like one, you'd probably enjoy the other.
Beard Factor - 3 out of 10 (Matthew Brooke, on right, has left the band and he had the far superior beard. I don't think Bridwell's beard can carry this band alone)
1. The Funeral
2. Part One