The Backtrack Blues Band
Over the years, Sonny Charles (vocals, harmonica), Spider Ingram and Little Johnny Walter (guitar), Eddie St. Clair (bass) and Joe Bencomo (drums) have opened for and performed alongside everyone from B.B. King to Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray Vaughan to John Lee Hooker. Their plugged-in, booty-shufflin' Chicago blues is on full display on their CD Captured Alive, which was recorded during a Little Walter tribute concert at the Palladium in 2011. backtrackbluesband.com.
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The Barnkickers jokingly bill themselves as "Tampa Bay's Favorite Father and Daughter Ukulele Duo." Steve and Amanda Boisen of Tarpon Springs have a parent-kid repartee that slips into easy, musical rhythm with strums and plucks of a couple of ukuleles. The duo performs in bistros and coffee shops all over Tampa Bay, peppering their eclectic setlists with vintage favorites like Pennies From Heaven and Someone to Watch Over Me and covers of some modern bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, Green Day and the Shins. thebarnkickers.com.
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Singer Megan Criscillo and guitarist Jon Yencho have been playing together for about eight years, mostly performing covers of songs in venues around Hillsborough and Polk counties: bars, coffee shops, festivals and more. "We go from Janis Joplin to Tonic, Peter Gabriel to Adele," Criscillo said. Find the duo on Facebook.
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The multi-instrumentalist has been wowing local fans with both his band, RedFeather, and his solo project, Mountain Holler. Refreshing and unpretentious, his music is spacious and ethereal, conjuring visions of wide-open spaces, actualized through open tunings and a sea of reverb. "I write a lot about nature because I think about nature," he told tbt* recently. "I learn a lot from nature." facebook.com/RedFeatherSt.Pete.
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Betty Fox Band
Hardly a weekend goes by when you don't see this ambitious blues and soul outfit (formerly known as Betty Fox and the Dirty Bastards) performing at a bar, festival or nightspot around Tampa Bay. Their influences range from Bette Davis to Aretha Franklin to Tom Waits to Al Green to Frank Zappa, but their main objective is simple: Make folks have a good time. Their album Too Far Gone was released in 2012. bettyfox.net.
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Last fall, Dunnellon banjo player Mark Johnson got one heck of a break: Comic-turned-bluegrass star Steve Martin, a student of Johnson's, invited him to perform on the Late Show with David Letterman. But that was nothing compared to the $50,000 check he received in September as the winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. While Johnson may lack the instant name recognition of banjo greats such as Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley, his fans are enamored with the eloquent, melodic style Johnson has dubbed "clawgrass," a hybrid of bluegrass and old-time mountain-style clawhammer banjo. clawgrass.com.
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The Killer B3 Band
Local semi-supergroup Shawn Brown (organ), Nate Najar (guitar), Jeremy Carter (sax) and Kenny Suarez (drums) got together for several shows last year in support of a documentary called Killer B3, about the power of the iconic Hammond B3 organ. Brown was among the artists featured. killerb3.com.
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While most beach-based singer-songwriters are content to play Margaritaville at clubs up and down Gulf Boulevard, Jim Lanier took his act international in 2012. The Indian Rocks Beach guitarsmith was performing at the Thunderbird Beach Resort in Treasure Island when a hotelier asked him to perform at his place in Ivalo, Finland. So he packed up his catalog of country music and "trop-rock" and headed to Europe. These days, you can often see him on Wednesdays at the Thunderbird. jimlanier.com.
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Matt Also Adam
Matt Walker and Adam Harr play a warm, bluesy take on bluegrass and Americana, from the shuffling folk of Gone For Good to the dusty Southern funk of The Chase. It's like a more easygoing Avett Brothers or Black Keys. facebook.com/Matt.Also.Adam.
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Sara Rose Band
An employee of Skipper's Smokehouse, Sara Hagan is also a singer who collaborated with Uncle John's Band during a Pink Floyd tribute show a few years back. After that, she and some other employee-musicians at Skipper's (including Barely Pink's Michael Hoag and Mark Warren) formed this throwback country/rockabilly outfit. facebook.com/TheSaraRoseBand.
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Damon Fowler is a regular on the Tampa Bay blues scene and beyond. And his newish blues supergroup is getting pretty well known, too. Southern Hospitality, featuring blues guitarists Fowler and J.P. Soars, plus pianist Victor Wainwright, has brought their bluesy boogie-woogie to festivals around Tampa Bay over the past year and a half. They released a CD, Easy Livin', in March, and will play Europe in May. southernhospitalityband.com.
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This Sarasota outfit plays acoustic folk with a bluegrassy flavor, a la Patty Griffin, Dar Williams or Alison Krauss and Union Station. Formed around singer-guitarists Carmela Pedicini and Tanya Radtke, the group's latest album Another Song About A Bird is full of gently countrified Americana - in more ways than one. Their song Dreaming of Abraham Lincoln quotes Honest Abe at length, including a verse culled mostly from the Gettysburg Address. passerinemusic.net.