In December 2012, a baby-faced boy blessed with an abundance of “Gawd”-given musical talent was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Americana Album for his blazing and brilliant album, “From the Ground Up.” In February, Bearden, Okla.’s John Fullbright unleashed a blistering live performance of “Gawd Above” during the Grammy pre-show Web cast. He found out later that night that he lost to Bonnie Raitt.
At least he wasn’t beaten out by Mumford & Sons.
The caliber of talent emerging from the red clay and endless sky of Oklahoma surpassed the expectations of an industry that has long dismissed our landlocked territory as a flyover state. More than ever, artists like Samantha Crain, Horse Thief and John Moreland are establishing Oklahoma as a musical force to be reckoned with. Crain was named an “Artist to Watch” by Rolling Stone magazine in May of this year, and recently signed to the UK label Full Time Hobby, who will distribute her latest opus, “Kid Face,” in Europe. Crain will also embark on a European tour in January supporting Deer Tick.
After signing to Bella Union Records in February, Horse Thief shook up their sound with a new line-up, adding Alex Coleman, Zach Zeller and Alberto Roubert to the mix. In addition to this surprising changing of the guard, they also toured the West Coast and recorded their new album in Los Angeles. Their first show as a quintet scorched the ears of passionate Opolis attendees in February, setting up what has been an incredible year for the young band.
Meanwhile, John Moreland’s album “In the Throes” spurned a tidal wave of accolades from all over the world – most notably, a recent tweet by Rachel Maddow that praised the Tulsa artist, saying, “If the American music business made any sense, guys like John Moreland would be household names.” In addition to this, selections from “In the Throes” earned repeated airtime on FX’s popular show “Sons of Anarchy,” and Moreland joined Jason Isbell on a leg of Isbell’s national tour.
Moreland wasn’t the only Oklahoma artist invited to support national acts this year. Oklahoma City rapper Jabee had an impressive run with El-P (who also produced Jabee’s single “Stephanie”) and Killer Mike. Finalizing his biggest year as a rap artist is the recent announcement that he is joining rapper Murs’ new Los Angeles-based label Murs316 and will soon release his new album, “Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt.” Stillwater’s DEERPEOPLE opened for Vampire Weekend’s sold-out show at Brady Theater in early October, and Junebug Spade was invited by Built to Spill to be the support for their European tour. Horse Thief paid a visit to Brooklyn to open for Blitzen Trapper at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and both Skating Polly and Sonic Violence were honored to open for Washed Out at The Conservatory.
In April, after months of waiting, Skating Polly released their sophomore album, “Lost Wonderfuls,” which was produced by punk rock legend Exene Cervenka and mixed by The Flaming Lips’ drummer, Kliph Scurlock. “Lost Wonderfuls” demonstrated tremendous growth by the young duo, and garnered the girls opening slots not only for Washed Out, but also for The Flaming Lips, Deerhoof and Band of Horses. Most recently, Skating Polly kept Oklahoma fans updated on their experiences supporting Kate Nash’s national tour via enthusiastic posts on social media.
Also returning from national tour is Red City Radio, fronted by the gravelly-voiced Garrett Dale. Their sophomore release, “Titles,” saw the band exploring new musical territory while never straying far from their hard-hitting original sound. In addition to Skating Polly and Red City Radio, BRONCHO’s year has been spent touring practically non-stop, and seen them infiltrate the music scene at the national level with coverage in Filter Magazine, which premiered their new music video for “Psychiatrist.” Tulsa native Johnny Polygon has also enjoyed a busy year with an indefatigable schedule of shows, studio time and music video shoots after his release of “The Nothing” at the beginning of this year.
Some musical successes tied to Oklahoma almost go without saying, as these bands have eclipsed the local scene and now make regular appearances on the national stage. Kings of Leon’s “Mechanical Bull,” The Flaming Lips’ “The Terror” and Hanson’s “Anthem” have all garnered national media and industry recognition, with Hanson’s single “This Time Around” charting at a high of No. 20 on the Billboard charts. One act that belongs to this category was silent this year, however. Other Lives, after moving to Portland, Oregon this year, has spent the better part of their time recording a new album, which we hope to see released in 2014.
In due time, Hollywood came knocking and it discovered the talents of Jacob Abello (Prettyboy) and Chelsey Cope. Abello’s audition for “American Idol” took him to Hollywood for the first round of the show, and William H. Macy tapped Cope for a prime role in his new film “Rudderless,” which was just selected to be the closing film at Sundance in 2014.
In order to support the burgeoning music scene in the state, a crop of new events and musical series sprung up this year. In Tulsa, the Blue Dome Music Series at Dwelling Spaces was started to showcase the talent of local artists at this free weekly gathering. On the heels of Horton Records’ “New Tulsa Sound” album came the “New Tulsa Folks” release, which featured the talent of bands like Grazzhopper, Bandelier and Grayless. Ben Brazil of the band Oklahoma Cloud Factory started Angler Audible Sessions to spotlight the live music performances of local acts like The Hitt Boyz and Bored Wax. In a similar vein, Blackwatch Studios premiered a series of events that recorded performances by bands like ADDverse Effects and Dead Sea Choir and released audio of the concerts for free download.
This Land Live’s concert series featured incredible musical moments from Algebra, Beau Jennings & the Tigers and OK Sweetheart. Meanwhile, VDub Sessions – the collaborative video/audio project between Nathan Poppe, The Spy and Fowler VW – enjoyed its three-year anniversary in November. In its three years of existence, VDub Sessions have released videos featuring bands like Eisley, Kopecky Family Band and Midlake.
Over a year into the partnership between KOSU and The Spy FM, KOSU opened a brand new studio on Film Row in Oklahoma City, and recently hired The Oklahoma Rock Show’s Ryan Lacroix as both operations manager and the new local host of “All Things Considered.”
The total sum of talent increases exponentially as the years race on, and 2013 has been one of the most incredible years for music that Oklahoma has seen. Each isolated moment acts as a building block for the future; in this is a latent promise that the following year will be even better. With continuing support for the local music scene, our musicians will be pushed to excel. Momentum is gained every time you share an album with friends, host a house show or take in a live local musical performance. Be a part of 2014’s musical successes by joining arms with fellow fans, and help reinvent the way Oklahoma is perceived on the international stage.
Album Releases Breezy Burnz – Product of My Enlightenment The Fabulous St. Nicholas Cage – Shit Surf Rule of Eight – Databending The Electric Primadonnas – Clergymen Prettyboy – Dejvická Depth & Current – Transient Dr. Pants – The Trip, Side 4: The Booty Impression Brandon Jenkins – Through the Fire Beau Jennings & The Tigers – Sweet Action Black Canyon – s/t The Wurly Birds – Mulberry Huff Samantha Crain – Kid Face Cosmostanza – Champs EP Luke Dick – Abraço Taddy Porter – Stay Golden Johnny Polygon – The Nothing The Hitt Boyz – AlphaCat The Purple Church – s/t Them Hounds – s/t Fos – We Are Horse Thief – Grow Deep, Grow Wild Progress in Color – Get Well EP Indiangiver – Plafond EP Flaming Lips – The Terror Skating Polly – Lost Wonderfuls Limber Limbs – s/t EP Brother Gruesome – Mutually Assured Destruction AM & Shawn Lee – La Musique Numerique John Moreland – In the Throes Hanson – Anthem Tyler Hopkins – Somebody Like You Ben Rector – The Walking Between Giraffe Massacre – Failed Attempts Tallows – Memory Marrow Grooms – Infinity Caller Traindodge – Supernatural Disaster Them Apples – s/t EP Good Culture – s/t EP The Younglings – s/t Power Pyramid – The God Drums Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull Pink Pony – Whatever Red City Radio – Titles Cheyenne – Kings County At Long Last – One More Year Poolboy – Soda Kids EP Simon Curtis – WWW Green Corn Revival – Bound for Glory Jabee – Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt Sherree Chamberlain – New Skin
Label Signings: Horse Thief – Bella Union Depth & Current signed to Club AC30 Grooms – Western Vinyl Swon Brothers – Arista Nashville Samantha Crain – Full Time Hobby Jabee – Murs316
Grammy Nominations 2014 Blake Shelton – Best Country Album – Based On A True Story, Best Country Solo Performance – “Mine Would Be You” Miranda Lambert – Best Country Solo Performance – “Mama’s Broken Heart” Vince Gill (with Kelly Clarkson) – Best Country Duo/Group Performance – “Don’t Rush” Charlie Wilson – Best Gospel Song – “If I Believe” Kings of Leon – Best Rock Album
Breakups CHUD Shitty/Awesome The Boom Bang Black Canyon Cheyenne Debris Color Me Badd
Deaths JJ Cale at 74 Josh Betterton at 37 Haskell Clyde Stacy at 77 Betsy Smith at 60 Cal Smith at 81 Joey Fowler at 24 Katsuhiro “Hana” Hanamura at 30 Robb Hayes at 58 Basile Kolliopoulos at 59 Dub Cross at 56 Blake Lopez at 23 “Sweet Emily” Smith at 69 Patti Page at 85