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CCM's Guide to Independent Artists - Part 1

  • Matt Conner CCM Magazine
  • 2007 9 Oct
<i>CCM</i>'s Guide to Independent Artists -  Part 1

Even with the MySpaces and PureVolumes of the world to help, finding your way past the labeled waters of the musical world can be frustrating. Diamonds in the rough are all around, yet most store shelves refuse to reveal them. Allow us to help. Presenting the first part of CCM’s Guide to Independent Artists. . . .

Dave Barnes
This pastor’s son and talented singer/songwriter has fans named John Mayer, Vince Gill and Amy Grant and two critically lauded full-length efforts. At first, Barnes became a heartthrob with his interactive live show and lovelorn lyrics found on Brother, Bring The Sun. However, Chasing Mississippi, his most recent effort, found the newly married songwriter singing blues-tinged rock that revealed a soulful delivery previously hidden. The results were still the same: adoring critics and fans alike.

Blue Birds & Bright Lights

“We want to bring audiences music with positive emotions, sharing a sense of peace and hope,” explains David Lubarski, who, along with Angelina Lucero, forms this post-rock duo from Indiana known as Blue Birds and Bright Lights. Lucero is reminiscent of Over The Rhine’s Karen Bergquist, and Lubarski’s sonic backdrops belong on the best of movie soundtracks. The band’s debut, I Know What Makes Me Strong, released in June.

C-Sick, The Chosen One
Focusing on bringing a redemptive message to today’s youth, C-Sick combines everything from acoustic guitar to heavy samples to present his stated lyrical delivery. Even when he’s not rapping, he’s working with juvenile offenders at a youth treatment facility in Nebraska. Souled Out, his debut disc, shows the former gang member hoping to “convert as many as he’s corrupted.”

The Canvas Waiting

The radio-rock outfit known as The Canvas Waiting evokes comparisons to Goo Goo Dolls and other similar acts, even with only one EP under its belt. The seven song In Search of Beginnings has received high marks from various media outlets including Indie Vision who mentioned, “This is a solid debut, and The Canvas Waiting will be a band to watch in the future.”

SEE ALSO: CCM’s Guide to Independent Artists - Part 2

David Condos

This Belmont University graduate has critics raving after listening to the stunning melodies on his debut, Smoking City. “Emotive. Smoking City is quite an achievement,” says American Songwriter. Recently, Condos signed with The Agency Group, an international booking agency that also represents The White Stripes, Feist and other indie heavy hitters.

Andy Davis

Davis exudes both charm and charisma, which combines to make him one of the top singer/songwriters to watch. His Fine China EP became a best-seller on awarestore.com, and he can usually be found on the road with artists like Josh Hoge, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz and Mat Kearney.

The Divine Soldiers

Brothers Jason and Brandon Wallace have performed in front of as many as 15,000 people as The Divine Soldiers, a hip-hop act with three CDs to their name and billing alongside Third Day and Relient K, among others. The duo just finished playing material from their latest, Feature Presentation, at various summer festivals.

Josh Garrels

A longtime staple at Cornerstone Festival, Garrels continues to mix his hybrid sound of soulful, spiritual rhythms with acoustic jams to great effect. His latest, Over Oceans, combines the sound with deep, emotional resonance that has Infuze saying, “I have never heard anything like it…prepare to be moved, indeed.”

Eric James & The New Century

The straightforward pop stylings of Eric James and his band are earning kudos from AOL, XM Radio and many online critics for their new The City Lights EP. Absolute Punk writes, “This is a very refreshing entry into the pop genre that will no doubt catch ears and probably make a few fans out of newcomers to the magic that Eric James & The New Century have weaved.”

What happens when electronica and synth-rock tendencies meet on a worship project? Magnificat. Two friends, Antonio Delgado and Thomas Shoemake, met at college in Texas and decided to combine their love for music with their love for God and create a diverse, eclectic worship project. Their full-length, O Precious Blood, is available on their website.

Maria Long

Maria Long’s debut release, Here With Me, reveals a more mature sound than most of her contemporaries, maybe due in part to the years she spent as a teacher before becoming a recording artist. Long’s vertical lyrics pair well with an aggressive acoustic/electric delivery that helps her find a niche among other female vocalists.

Sandra McCracken

Singer/songwriter Sandra McCracken may appear in the shadow of her more prominent husband, Derek Webb—but not for long. Her acclaimed album Gravity | Love released last fall, placing masterful storytelling within beautiful folk vehicles. This year saw the release of The Builder And The Architect, a hymns project recorded with Webb, focused on renewing anthems for the church.

John Mark McMillan

The Springsteen-influenced The Song Inside The Sounds of Breaking Down is wrought with emotion and grit, giving John Mark McMillan a quality most singer/songwriters spend a lifetime trying to achieve. HM Magazine notes that McMillan’s debut possesses “a patriotic sound that incorporates bold, stripped down blues with a voice reminiscent of Pete Yorn and a broken America.”

Paper Route

Former members of For All The Drifters team to create the stunning acoustic-meets-techno sound of Paper Route. Their impeccable musicianship has Nashville abuzz about the trio who only recently took their electronica on the road through a Midwest tour. Their initial EP is now available, but the guys are currently busy recording a full-length follow up.

A Road Less Traveled

Performing at camps, youth events and churches all over the nation, A Road Less Traveled brings a freshness to the student-oriented pop/rock scene on their latest, Rescue. After winning a Battle of the Bands contest in Texas, ARLT began sharing the stage alongside Delirious, Skillet and By The Tree at various festivals and concerts, and, this year, has enjoyed tour dates with Hyper Static Union and Building 429.

Alli Rogers

The simple folk tendencies of Alli Rogers first appeared on 2005’s Eden, but it wasn’t until The Day of Small Things that critics started to take notice. Outlets from Radiant Magazine to Christianity Today praised the album, with the Dallas Morning News commenting, “Simple, powerful and lovely, The Day of Small Things is a joyful jewel.” Comparisons to Jonatha Brooke and Patty Griffin ring true on her new live disc, Alli Rogers: At Sea.

Rue Royale

This husband/wife duo from Chicago crafts stunning sound-scapes with minimal instru-mentation, and their five song EP, The Search for Where to Go, haunts from beginning to end. The largely acoustic-driven work evokes comparison to early Sufjan Stevens with its quirky folk tendencies.


A finalist for this year’s New Artist Showcase at Cornerstone ///seizethemoment. combines screamo and hardcore elements on Scars Are Reminders (We Know The Killer). The EP landed the Chicago quintet on the map in 2003 and was recently reissued preceding new material to be released later this year. Ultimately, vocalist Steve Bliss says their hope is that the music “can lead us to a path where we have the ability to speak to people by the masses and make a difference in something.”

The Upstairs Divine

The addition of vocalist Bethany Raybourn to the already beautiful melancholy of The Upstairs Divine only makes this Louisana soothe-rock band that much better. Chosen by mtvU as one of the best college bands in America, TUD sounds like a serious version of Eisley on its new self-titled EP. After playing alongside bands like Cool Hand Luke and The Polyphonic Spree, The Upstairs Divine headlined its own tour this summer.

Kate York
When you’ve only been at your craft for a few years and you’ve already collaborated with the likes of Mindy Smith and Matthew Ryan, something is going right. Kate York has been featured in Esquire and Paste as an artist to watch for, and rightly so. Sadly Love’s haunting melodies and York’s penchant for the poetic separate her from the rest of the singer/songwriter pack. It’s hard to stand out in Nashville, but York has managed to do just that.

© 2007 CCM Magazine.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.   Click here to try a free issue.