The 2013 Riverfront Times Music Showcase is this weekend! Think of it as St. Louis music's own official holiday and consider this the season. Throughout May we at RFT Music have been working hard to make our cases for all 130 bands and artists nominated for an RFT Music Award this year in 26 categories. Read on and get yourself acquainted, and we'll see you at the showcase (check out this post for the full schedule)!
Nicholas Vachel Lindsay may be the de facto poet laureate of Springfield, Illinois, but if Ben Bedford continues on his current path, Lindsay may have to share a few garlands. A student of Midwestern and Civil War-era history and a devotee of Townes Van Zandt and Woody Guthrie, Bedford writes songs the way a master poet shapes a form. Lines interlink, rhythms reinforce meaning and melodies rise up as naturally as flowers from good soil. Bedford's latest album, What We Lost, moves between visions of John the Baptist, the American Indian Movement and Vachel Lindsay himself, all sung with plangency and gravitas. His songs will make you reflect, but more importantly, they will make you feel. -Roy Kasten
Once best known as the Lonely Pine to her friend and folk-collaborator Cassie Morgan, Bombara has patiently established her own voice and music: a subtle fusion of folk, blues, county and rock. And while she's a gifted multi-instrumentalist — nobody plays a meaner wine glass onstage — she's also dedicated to writing songs with texture and tension. Her cut "All Along" on the first Tower Groove Records collection is one of the highlights on that double-vinyl set, a pure slice of country pop that never sounds saccharine. And her current work as a member of Old Lights and her forthcoming solo EP, Raise Your Flag, has sparkle and surprising indie-pop savvy. -Roy Kasten
Fred Friction plays folk music capable of making the universal personal and the personal universal, often supplementing his sound by playing the spoons. A man who frequently and flagrantly ignores musical trends, Friction plays the music he enjoys and is often accused of being "weird." He most certainly is, and he does not give a fuck — he would continue to perform even if nobody ever listened, simply because he must xpress himself. Put plainly, Friction does whatever he wants. Fred Friction is forever Fred Friction, and that's why we love him. -Jaime Lees
It's no surprise that John Hartford has no single successor in St. Louis, but Ryan Spearman comes close. A multi-instrumentalist as gifted on the guitar as he is on the fiddle — and far more indebted to country blues than Hartford — Spearman also writes natural and easy-flowing songs that connect to folk traditions while firmly residing in the present. His latest release, Pain & Time, collects together many of the songs he's known for and has been playing for years — "Haley Mae," "Pretty Saro" and "Moonshiner," just for starters — fully showcasing his commanding vocal and instrumental talent. -Roy Kasten
The music of Zak Marmalefsky is simultaneously of this age and not of this world. With a finger-plucked guitar and a clutch of heartbroken but witty songs, Marmalefsky conjures Depression-era street corners and speakeasys, where his rich, sincere baritone crooning might have once made him king of the minstrels for a day. For now, he'll settle for an air of folk-troubadour mystery. Following in the footsteps of Leadbelly and Dave Van Ronk isn't for the faint of skill or heart; Marmalefsky has both. His music – sometimes poignant, sometimes off-color, often both at the same time – is never a throwback put-on. -Roy Kasten