The Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers (no, really!) at this year’s Super Bowl, and that made us wonder how many bands in our ever-expanding vinyl catalog were from either place. Turns out, lots of great bands (and great records) come from Colorado and the Carolinas, so we’ve picked three from each region to showcase here. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Dressy Bessy, and the Lumineers represent Colorado, and Flat Duo Jets, Weedeater, and Superchunk represent the Carolinas.
An Scac 102: An Introduction for Young and Old Europe, by Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
If you’re a fan of Old Crow Medicine Show, but wish their music was creepier, you’ll love Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Formed in Denver in 1992, Slim Cessna and co. have been exploring the darker side of Americana for almost a quarter-century, with a sound that pulls from country and western, gospel, carnival melodies, and all things eerie and rural. Their newest album, released last year, is a retrospective of some of their best work to date: “This Is How We Do Things In The Country” could have been a Flannery O’Connor short story, “Cranston” conveys punk rock’s weird anger with mostly acoustic instruments, and “Pine Box” is an incredible arrangement of cynical alt-country that builds to tent revival bliss.
Holler and Stomp, by Dressy Bessy
Dressy Bessy, also from Denver, made a name for themselves as a cute indie-pop band and then tried to subvert those expectations with albums like this one, released in 2008. The critical response was mixed, but now that they’ve had some time to clean their ears out, they’ll be able to hear how good this album really is. There’s some grunge messiness in the guitars and more aggressive bass, and singer Tammy Ealom’s voice matured a bit since the band’s earlier releases, but no matter how much they down-tuned, their knack for writing pop dance music never went away. “Sindy Says” has a fun Pixies/Breeders vibe, and “Pretty Pleaze” has an under-appreciated T. Rex flavor to it.
The Lumineers, by The Lumineers
For a band that formed in response to the death of a close friend, there’s a subtle joy in the Lumineers’ cinematic, offbeat brand of folk rock. They find inspiration in Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Leonard Cohen (and Guns N’ Roses, although that one is less obvious), so their music is rustic, but not lacking in catchy hooks or unobservant of pop song structure. “Submarines,” for example, is a weapons-grade earworm that uses somber piano and stomping drums to great effect, as does “Ho Hey,” the single that drove this album’s sales up to the #2 spot on the Billboard 200. Apart from the singles, songs like “Charlie Boy” demonstrate how well the band builds atmosphere with sparse instrumentation.
Red Tango, by Flat Duo Jets
Fans of the White Stripes (Jack White has claimed them as an influence in more than one interview) or the Black Keys will love this North Carolina–based, two-person rockabilly outfit. Led by roots rock legend Dexter Romweber on guitar and vocals, the band’s sound emphasized the stomp of classic rockabilly, rather than the swing. Picture the Cramps with less horror movie shtick and more soul in the vocals and you’re in the right ballpark. While a bit less raw than previous albums, Red Tango has plenty of grit, with just enough polish to not totally alienate people unfamiliar with the gutbucket outskirts of rock ‘n roll. “Madman on the Loose,” “Blackbeard,” and the haunting, organ-tinged “Sea of Flames” are the standout tracks here.
God Luck and Good Speed, by Weedeater
Hailing from Wilmington, NC, Weedeater occupies a unique space in the sludge/stoner metal continuum; while most stoner bands are all about guitars and riffs, Weedeater’s sound is bass-driven, low, thicker than syrup, and punishingly heavy. God Luck and Good Speed, released in 2003 and produced by Steve Albini, is Weedeater at their best. More than any other band in their genre, they know how to find a groove and ride it out to the end, as evidenced by the title track, “For Evan’s Sake,” and their cover of Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Gimme Back My Bullets.” In a notable departure from their trademark sound, vocalist “Dixie” Dave Collins gives his unique baritone voice a chance to shine on “Alone,” where his only accompaniment is a banjo.
On The Mouth, by Superchunk
Quite frankly, it’s odd that the wave of 1990s nostalgia hasn’t swept Chapel Hill, NC’s Superchunk back into the popular consciousness yet. Their music straddled the gap between the moody grunge and radio-friendly college rock that defined that era of rock ‘n’ roll, and they don’t get enough credit for doing it so well. On The Mouth, originally released in 1993, might be the best example of how underrated they were, as it’s a highly underrated treasure of ’90s rock. At this time, the band was breaking in new drummer Jon Wurster, who perhaps felt like he had something to prove; drums are the driving force behind much of this record. Tracks like “Precision Auto,” “Package Thief,” and “Flawless” are packed with energy, and comparatively slower songs like “From The Curve” are busy enough to not feel slow.