As you may or may not know, most indie musicians are worried about where their next meal is coming from. While my exact relationship with all these artists is different (and sometimes changing), they all are making music I consider excellent, and you could really make their day (and mine) by buying a CD from them. I'll try to give you some idea of what they sound like so you can focus on one you'll actually like :-) There's enough diversity here for just about anybody to find something they're gonna love.
Julian Lennon needs no introduction, but his new idea "The Revolution" works like this. Fans put this widget on their websites/blogs/facebook etc, and get perqs and cas$h for helping him sell his music:
Did I mention that any indie musician could (and should) get in on this action, by setting up their own plug-in widget?
Ellen Rosner has been compared to "Melissa Etheridge, Joan Armatrading and Rosanne Cash" by Dan Kenning in MetroMix.com on online partner of The Chicago Tribune. I haven't heard any of Rosanne Cash' work, but I often described Ellen's voice as "Johnny Cash on estrogen" before that article, so I reckon it's pretty accurate :-) Ellen also doesn't cringe when compared to Ani DiFranco, so I guess that's another good musical referrant.
The CD The Perfect Malcontent is half full-band with the Poi Dog Pondering horn section, as well as backing vocals from Jane Baxter-Miller (Texas Rubies, Baxter Ltd.). The other half is "solo" -- just voice and guitar. But this is an artist who regularly opened for punk bands with just a voice and an acoustic guitar... And they like it! This CD was also named "Top 5 Debut Release" by Richard Milne of Local Anesthetic on WXRT and was nominated for a GLAMA "Debut CD": You may not know who these people are, but they're pretty big in the Independent Music world, so we're pretty darned happy.
Her latest CD Count to 3 has been favorably reviewed in The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times which is a great coup for an indie artist! This CD was clearly recorded for the express purpose of being a CD the artist wanted to have. Strictly a pop-rock CD with nothing even remotely resembling her acoustic roots. Audiophiles will appreciate the "mix" a great deal, I think.
Ulele is perhaps one of the most difficult bands to describe... Winston "Stone" Damon is the keystone of Ulele. He tends to play several instruments at once, and I've never seen him play anything common like a guitar: It's usually a Kalimba (finger-piano), Electric Cello (which he hand-crafted after the "regular" cello was crushed on tour), or didgeridoo; along with a kick drum with one foot, cow bell with the other, and chimes on one ankle and bells on another. He also crafts some excellent arrangements for his 7-piece backing band: drum-kit, bass, guitar/trombone, 2 trombones, clarinet/melodica, voice/flute/guitar/percussion. All these instruments (and several I've left out to keep things simple) are woven together with different shades of multiple ethnic/world "sounds" in each song, yielding a sound really unlike anything else. Each song is a different "mix", ranging from reggae to blues to a driving almost-punk: The result, though, is somehow distinctively Ulele. If you like eclectic music with melodic, non-traditional instrumentation and highly dancable arrangements, Ulele is for you: Ulele fits somewhere in the midst of (but very distinct from) Liquid Soul, Sonia Dada, Pink Floyd and Morphine.
Their first CD Seed was out-of-print (I'll pay top dollar to anybody who finds me one of these first pressings -- my autographed copy was stolen), but has been re-mixed, re-mastered and re-released in 2002. Currently only available as collectible CD-R one-offs, but the artwork is nearing completion and a pressed version should be out soon.
Their second CD Harmony is also a treat: Over 1,000 people attended their 3-night CD-release party! BOTH Seed and Harmony were selected as Editor's choice at CDBaby, where they get an average of 40 CD's per day and listen to every single one before picking. Do the math.
Jade Maze, has had a lot of good press, but I've always liked "a voice so smooth you could skate on it", myself. If you're into Blues and R&B, her latest CD My favorite color is blue is a pretty hot item.
Tristen is a 17-year-old phenomenon with a lot of potential: If you're tired of your kids listening to the latest no-talent teen idol being crammed down their throats by the mass media, turn them on to Tristen!
Chicago Harmony and Truth is a non-profit organization of music-industry professionals: Many fine Chicago artists are members, and there's a pretty nifty search engine (if I do say so myself) to find artists by their instrument of choice. If you're a musician, bookmark the venues database of over 1400 music venues around the world, searchable by critical info to a touring musician: Genre, Distance (US zip codes), Pay Scale, Capacity, and Openness to New Artists.
You also might want to volunteer to help maintain this "OpenData" online database resource: You'll get an email every week/month/year (whatever you choose) with the information we have about a venue. Your task is to simply contact that venue and verify/update the info. You don't even have to be a musician. It's an online form that's pretty easy to fill out while you're on the phone with the joint, or you can print the email and use that as a guide if you're a dialup type and can't surf and phone at the same time.
Now if none of those trip your trigger, I'll tell you what: Just go here and search for your favorite artist's name in the "Sounds Like" box. I guarantee you'll find a CD that's even better (and cheaper!) than them.
Disclaimer: In some instances, I have a vested financial interest in some of these artists getting famous.
If you really want full disclosure before you buy any particular CD, just ask, but trying to explain it all here would make this page too long to download :-)