Half Timing, Half Luck

By | September 28, 2011

Southbury Patch

Borrowing a line from a Michael Buble song and using it as the title of an article about underrated musicians may seem out of place, and while the erstwhile crooner certainly isn’t flying under the radar, it’s a rather apropos statement about the hit-or-miss nature of the music business.

There are plenty of talented musicians playing bars and small clubs throughout the US, or posting YouTube videos in an attempt to “make it,” but for one reason or another never get there.

Others are professional, commercially successful musicians whose body of work outstrips the level of critical recognition they’ve received. This is a list of seven individual performers or groups who fit into this category

Ryan Adams spent some time in the spotlight in late 2001 with his single “New York, New York.” Three years later, he gained further popularity for his cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” The North Carolina native started his career as the singer of the alternative-country band, Whiskeytown, before going on to release several solo records as well as a couple records with The Cardinals.

Adams is a singing and songwriting force, as well as being an excellent guitarist; he also plays piano, harmonica, drums, banjo, bass, and mandolin. His style ranges from somber country tunes like “Easy Hearts” to lung-busting sing-along rock songs like “So Alive.”

His variety is one of Adams’ best attributes, and if his music is not as popular as he might like, at least he can console himself with the fact that he’s married to Mandy Moore.

It’s hard to call a band that’s sold over 30 million records underappreciated, but Huey Lewis and the News is just that. The band in the 1980s with a string of hits that included “The Power of Love,” “I Want a New Drug,” and “Walking on a Thin Line,” but they’ve been making music steadily since then.

Huey Lewis and co. brings an infectious sense of fun to straightforward pop music that makes the songs more than throwaways. Lewis has a big voice that he isn’t afraid to use, and the choruses are ones that you’ll want to belt out in the car.

A lot of people will look at this next artist and think I’ve lost my mind, or think it’s a joke; it’s not. Everyone knows “Mmmbop,” but Hanson has come a long way from their first hit. The three brothers from Tulsa are married, have kids, and they no longer look like girls (for the most part).

More importantly, however, their music has evolved from kid-friendly pop songs to works of genuine artistic value. Underneath was the first record that showed a more mature side and the 2007 release,The Walk, cemented their status as serious musicians.

As owners of their 3CG record label, Hanson has been able to release catchy pop-songs like “Voice in the Chorus” as well songs illustrating social problems, such as “Great Divide.”

Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of K’naan. The Somalian-born rapper has generally flown under the radar, his biggest claim to fame being the song “Wavin’ Flag” which became an anthem of sorts for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

The outspoken musician blends R&B, hip-hop, and oftentimes traditional African music to create quite unique songs. His 2009 album, Troubadour, showcased his talents with fantastic songs like “If Rap Gets Jealous” – an indictment of a superficial hip-hop culture – as well as “I Come Prepared,” and“Take a Minute.”

Everyone’s heard the song “One Headlight” by The Wallflowers, and a lot of people know that the lead singer of the band is Bob Dylan’s son. But how many other songs have people heard? Not too many.

The band’s 1996 release, Bringing Down the Horse, sold over four million albums, but none of their later releases have come close to matching this feat. Breach, their 2000 follow-up, is the band’s second best-selling record and it was only certified gold (one-hundred thousand copies sold).

While their star has faded, The Wallflower’s music is just as good as it always was. Dylan’s voice is smoother than his father’s, and his lyrics are more stirring (albeit less socially inclined).

Highlights of the band’s career include the haunting “God Says Nothing Back” and “Sleepwalker.”

The Gaslight Anthem is an up-and-coming band; the only surprising thing is that they’re not already bigger. On the strength of three fantastic full-length albums, frontman Brian Fallon and the rest of the band have attracted a loyal following.

Comparisons to fellow Jersey-native Bruce Springsteen are apt, but Gaslight brings a punk mentality to their music that gives it a bit more of an edge.

The band’s latest release, 2010’s American Slang, charted in more than 10 countries and the buzz around the band continues to grow. With addictive songs like “The ’59 Sound” (this version with The Boss) it won’t be long before The Gaslight Anthem is all over the radio.

These artists are all at different stages in their careers – for better or worse – but what they have in common is an immense talent that needs to be enjoyed.

What musicians would you like to see become more popular? Tell us in the comments.