About to Break: Four Blue Ridge Bands You Need to Hear

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Ghost Owl

This electro-groove trio is comprised of three former members of the defunct Georgia jam outfit Perpetual Groove. In Ghost Owl, Adam Perry, Matt McDonald, and Albert Suttle eschew epic noodling in favor of tight dance rock, propelled by a swirling tapestry of synths and pulsing beats. The band’s spring-released debut album, Say Goodbye to Finland, covers a range of sonic ground from melodic techno-pop to futuristic indie rock—impressive for a group of guys who’ve already spent more than a decade proving they can command a live stage. Upcoming Gigs: 11/13 at The International in Knoxville, Tenn., and 11/14 at the Chop Shop in Charlotte, N.C.

Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts

Prolific tunesmith Bryan Elijah Smith hails from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where he cranks out pensive blue-collar tunes like a mountain-town Springsteen. Since 2008 he’s penned an estimated 500 songs and released eight studio albums. The latest, These American Hearts, is the fourth with his steadfast backing band—a group that brings an Appalachian-hued rock edge to the output in Smith’s growing songbook. With scruffy vocals and infectious hooks, the effort is full of honest emotion, captured through an Americana sound that’s ripe for the masses. Upcoming Gigs: 12/5 at Deep South the Bar in Raleigh, N.C., and 12/27 at The Hot Spot in Waynesboro, Va.


This Pennsylvania-based sextet specializes in sprawling psychedelic Americana, akin to the adventurous string sounds of predecessors Railroad Earth. The band executes speedy jam-grass foot-stompers along with multi-dimensional acoustic rock jams, often carried by soaring harmonies and the standout bow work of fiddler Todd Kopec. The band has started to gain national momentum, holding bills with the likes of The Infamous Stringdusters, and now hosts its own festival, the Susquehanna Breakdown, in Scranton in the spring. Upcoming Gigs: 11/12 at The Southern in Charlottesville, Va., and 11/13 at Martin’s in Roanoke, Va.

“this mountain”

“this mountain” (yes, the band spells its name in all lowercase letters) is a shaggy crew of earnest folk-rockers that has recently emerged from Johnson City, Tenn. The band will be an easy sell for fans of My Morning Jacket, thanks to a sound that moves deftly between mellow alt-country and full-on distorted twang rock, but the group really distinguishes itself with impressively layered harmonies that provide a soulful edge to standout tracks like “Slow Down” from debut album Future Ghost. Upcoming Gigs: 11/14 at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, N.C. and 11/15 at The Evening Muse in Charlotte, N.C.

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