One of the only things that could be considered a downside to the explosive growth of Maine’s music scene over the past few years is the fact that it’s a lot harder for people like me to keep up with writing about all of it. I get an awful lot of submissions and keep tabs on an awful lot of bands and artists, so sometimes, things understandably fall through the cracks. Here’s a small handful of the stuff I wasn’t able to get to this year, whether as a record review or a column spotlight. Here’s to another busy, creative 2014!
This Houlton-based singer-songwriter is a real road warrior, playing more than 100 dates per year on stages from Hollywood Casino in Bangor to Gritty’s in Portland — I wrote about him first back in 2008. Every four years, Humphrey puts out an album of country-blues infused rock, his last one being 2010’s “Dirty Beautiful World.” This year, however, Humphrey’s album “The Roadhouse Gospel Hour,” took an enjoyable departure. Blending Humphrey’s own songs with reworked renditions of traditional American folk, bluegrass and gospel songs like “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Down to the River” and “Lonesome Valley,” it is sad, sweet and heartfelt, anchored by Humphrey’s soulful baritone and exceptional acoustic guitar playing.
One of the most delightfully strange bands in Maine spends half their year tucked away in Presque Isle — Crunk Witch, the husband and wife duo of Brandon Miles and Hannah Colleen. The rest of the time they are touring from coast to coast, bringing their infectiously bizarre blend of EDM, pop and punk to the masses. The pair’s third album, “Heartbeats in Hyperspace,” released in August, distills their idiosyncratic sound into a fine point — it’s at once insanely catchy and wildly experimental. It would sound at home on both the dance floor and in the basement of some D&D playing teenagers. It’s safe to say that there isn’t another band in Maine that sounds like Crunk Witch. In fact, it’s not just safe to say it it: it’s true.
The Bangor-based Union House is a three-piece folk-rock trio comprised of songwriters Ric Bruns and Greg Lunn, with multi-instrumentalist Chas Bruns rounding out the sound. There’s a little bit of country, a little rock, a little Grateful Dead-style harmonizing and a little latter-day Bob Dylan playfulness, intermingled with some lyrical darkness. Between the fun, breezy “Cadillac Girl” and the worried mind anthem “How Did We End Up Here?” it’s clear that Bruns and Lunn have a lot on their mind and have found a creative way to let it out.
Doubting Gravity have been around the Maine music for a little while — they got started in 2007 and have since focused on the dynamic duo of singer Andi Fawcett and drummer Dave Henault. “Evolution,” their EP that came out in November, would fit in comfortably on modern rock radio, showcasing Fawcett’s impassioned vocals and the band’s dynamic flair. “Fear of Drowning” is a loud-quiet-loud epic, while the zippy, groovy “Evolution,” the title track, features some Brian May-esque guitar. After seven years together and hundreds of gigs, this hard-working band has settled on a powerful, contemporary sound that translates incredibly well to a live show.
At 14, Meghan Clark, a Washington County native, is possessing of a unusually mature voice, which she uses to its full potential on her debut self-titled EP, which came out this fall. Clark falls somewhere in the mid-period Taylor Swift spectrum — after her earliest country success, but before her reinvention as a pop idol. There are banjos, but there’s also rock guitar, and her songs, co-written with Nashville songwriter Beau Fuller, talk about boys, identity and life as a teenager. Then again, today’s popular country music blends the lines between rock and country more and more with each hit single. Could Clark be Maine’s answer to the current crop of precocious young female pop stars? If she stays true to herself and maintains that expressive voice, she just might be.