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Ryan Spearman Like any folk musician worth his salt, Ryan Spearman throws himself fully into his work becoming a jack of all trades in the process. The artist dons several hats to bring his music to the people, including as a singer, songwriter, musician, promoter, activist, open-mic host, educator and more. As an instructor for the Folk School of St. Louis, Spearman passes along his considerable skill as a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist to other aspiring musicians. His own music is warm and sweet with a depth that is easily accessible to all. He manages to bring topical issues to light without donning the cape of a heroic protest singer. On his 2011 album, Get Along Home, Spearman discusses American values alongside Cardinals baseball great Willie McGee in a tone that's neither preachy nor pretentious. His affable Midwestern nature shines through, giving his work a genuine quality that draws the listener in and allows her to gauge the quality of his songs for herself. --Scott Allen
The Skekses Fronted by Elly Herget's sympathetic drawl, the Skekses produce world-weary folk so stark and introspective that it could soundtrack both a Wild West film and a Diablo Cody vehicle. (Actually, the now-defunct HBO show Deadwood would be perfect.) Funneled through lyrical references to crime, love and metaphorical monsters, that lilt partners with tender, paired-down instrumentation dedicated to the sounds of yesterlust: temperate banjo, acoustic guitar, upright bass and lazy, wandering beats measured out through maracas and tambourine. The group, which has seen several lineup shifts since its inception, has expanded into a regular trio and occasional quartet. The band hit its stride and signature with its 2010 debut, Notes on the Collapse of an Alternate Universe, and features on Tower Groove's latest label compilation. The first full recording with the current lineup, Curse My Name, comes out June 8. --Kelsey Whipple
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