Pop Life

A Pair of Unlikely 21st-Century Folk Heroes

Two of the most buzzed-about records so far this year come from very different corners of the pop universe, but share a certain kinship. Both might safely fit under the umbrella of "Americana," but only at the outer extremes, with Bob Dylan likely their only common real ancestor. The first album in question, Father John Misty's I Love You, Honeybear, is a 21st-century recasting of the Laurel Canyon drawing-room dramas of the early-'70s perfected by the likes of Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne; while the other, Shinyribs' Okra Candy, hews to a path where Doug Sahm and Levon Helm did most of the brush-clearing.

Nevertheless, both performers, whose given names are J. Tillman and Kevin Russell, have created alter egos that have become fully realized characters in their own right, lifting the musicians responsible for them to unprecedented levels of success. Based on the passions both men have stirred up within their rapidly growing fan bases, you might even call them latter-day folk heroes.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray