Central Kentucky’s music scene has been building momentum in recent years. While breakout artists such as Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and more recently Tyler Childers and The Wooks have garnered much of that attention, others, such as 2018 torchbearers Joslyn & The Sweet Compression and Magnolia Boulevard, have also been turning ears to music from the Bluegrass state.
As we venture into 2019, many of the same players are sure to continue to stake their claim in the local scene, while others look to expand their following.
On that note, here’s some of the top emerging local bands and artists you should be on the lookout for in the new year.
Dark Moon Hollow
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Led by guitarists/songwriters Brett Horton and “Trigger” Trey Reinhart along with Thomas Keathley on banjo and David Fish on bass, Dark Moon Hollow formed in late 2017 out of many a late night jam session.
The group extracts honky tonk influences from Horton, a long-time musician from Sandy Hook who grew up playing atop Poppy Mountain in previous project Horton Holler. The rest of the band lends its expertise to the bluegrass realm, resulting in a high-energy sound that serves up the best of Kentucky’s signature musical stylings.
The group has built a solid foundation in their short time gigging together, performing a number of high-profile gigs 2018 including an appearance at Restless Leg String Band’s album release show at The Burl in July and on Red Barn Radio in October.
Using that foundation, Dark Moon Hollow has also garnered recognition as a nominee for Best Bluegrass Band at the fifth annual Lexington Music Awards, to be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 27 at the Lyric Theatre.
A long way from Dark Moon Hollow’s concoction of honky tonk bluegrass is the spacey, indie rock soundscapes of Lylak. The group is led by the vocals of guitarist Gideon Maki, complimented by the harmonies of Elizabeth Varnado, who also lends her talents on guitar and violin. Rounding out Lylak are Varnado’s husband Paul on bass/synths and journeyman drummer Zachary Martin.
Lylak have been busy on the songwriting front, releasing EPs in 2016 and 2017 while releasing a number of singles throughout 2018 in anticipation for another release in the spring 2019. In addition to the new music, the group will be performing at Somerset’s Master Musicians Festival in July. The event features headlining performances from Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Lost Dog Street Band and The War and Treaty, among others.
Massive Cult is the newest band on this list, performing its first show under the name last September. However, it wasn’t their first show together, with vocalist Tab Caudill, guitarist Nolan Mason, guitarist Billy Duncan and drummer Andrew Beauvier having performed together in previous project CHURCH&STATES along with Duncan and Beauvier having also played together in Bad People.
Caudill’s deceptively commanding vocals set the band’s tone, drawing similarities to Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams, while the rest of the band build upon her energy with dark and hard-driving instrumentals that have a tendency of slowly building in intensity before erupting in a chaotic crescendo à la Evanescence.
Stanton’s Chelsea Nolan has long been revered within Central Kentucky’s music scene, but that acclaim began to spread further in 2018 with the release of the artist’s debut EP “Chelsea,” which features Nolan’s Appalachian authenticity and charm as she sings of heartbreak, building fires and everything between. Several guests join Nolan on the effort including brother Josh, a singer-songwriter in his own right and one of Chelsea’s biggest influences and mentors.
Along with the aforementioned Lylak, Nolan will be performing at the 2019 Master Musicians Festival in Somerset. Nolan’s acclaim also spreads beyond the Commonwealth, with a scheduled performance this spring at Tumbleweed Country Music Festival in La Cygne, Kansas, from May 30 to June 1 alongside Alabama, Blackberry Smoke, the Marshall Tucker Band and fellow Kentuckians Senora May and Laid Back Country Picker.
Whitesburg-based Wayne Graham has existed for close to a decade as mostly a duo between brothers Kenny and Hayden Miles before undergoing a facelift in 2018, welcoming multi-faceted bassist Chris Justice and guitarist Lee Owen, best known for his near quarter-century stint fronting Grateful Dead cover band Born Cross Eyed.
The two additions help to round out the band’s sound, with Owen’s Jerry Garcia-like guitar play adding a dose of psychedelia to the band’s blend of Appalachian rock’n roll that falls somewhere between the Rolling Stones and Dire Straits.
In addition to their lineup changes in 2018, Wayne Graham also released “Joy!,” the band’s fourth album and second of a three album deal with Dresden, Germany based label Home Caravan. The partnership with the German label has afforded the band multiple opportunities to tour overseas, where they’re a top charting band in Germany in addition to recently being a featured artist in the German version of The Rolling Stone magazine.