I grew up in the "classic rock" era, but I love music of every genre. I love sharing my old favorites while still discovering new artists.
There Is Good New Music!
I often hear my fellow baby boomers lamenting, "There's just no good music today." If I depended on commercial radio for my music, I might tend to agree with them. However, talent has not skipped a generation.
Below is a list of some of my favorite contemporary bands. In random order, I have included a short write-up about each act and have also included videos that highlight each of these excellent musicians.
10 Good Musicians From the 21st Century
- Larkin Poe
- Greta Van Fleet
- Lucas Nelson
- Ben Harper
- Jack Johnson
- Jackie Greene
- James Hunter
- Paul Thorn
- Super Sonic Blues Machine
- Aynsley Lister
1. Larkin Poe
Years Active: 2010–present
Origin: Calhoun, Georgia, U.S.A
I don't know how it took me so long to hear these incredible young women. I recently heard them for the first time. Suffice it to say, they really blew me away.
Larkin Poe, is out of Atlanta, Georgia. This amazing blues-rock band is lead by sisters Rebecca Lovell (born January 30, 1991) and Megan Lovell (born May 12, 1989).
Rebecca does an amazing job on lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, and piano. Megan is simply fantastic on vocals and lap-steel. When their voices blend, it's a match made in heaven.
Larkin Poe Albums:
- KIN (2014)
- Reskinned (2016)
- Peach (2017)
- Venom & Faith (2018)
Larkin Poe, "Bleach Blond Bottle Blues"
2. Greta Van Fleet
Years Active: 2012–present
Origin: Frankenmuth, Michigan, U.S.
Greta Van Fleet is from Frankenmuth, Michigan. It is made up of vocalist Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka, bassist Sam Kiszka, and drummer Danny Wagner.
Their hard-rock sound is often compared to Led Zeppelin; in fact they have even been criticized for copying them. You can't miss the similarity of Josh Kiszka's voice to that of Robert Plant. That doesn't seem like a negative to me. The band say they didn't set out to imitate Led Zeppelin. They say they have a wide variety of musical influences.
Despite the criticism, the band has achieved phenomenal success. They released two EPs and two singles in 2017. Anthem of the Peaceful Army is their first full-length studio album, it was released in October of 2018.
It topped the Billboard Rock Album charts the first week after its release. The album's first single, "When the Curtain Falls" was their third number-one single on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts.
Greta Van Fleet Album:
Read More From Spinditty
- Anthem of the Peaceful Army (2018)
Greta Van Fleet, "When the Curtain Falls"
3. Lukas Nelson
Years Active: 2008–present
Origin: Venice, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Lukas Nelson is the son of music legend Willie Nelson. His voice is a lot like his dad’s, but his alternative country sound is all his own. He has tremendous energy and stage presence.
I first saw him at a festival in Humboldt County, California. That is in the state's Emerald Triangle, so-called because it is a high marijuana growing area. Lukas apparently inherited his dad's fondness for the weed, as he openly puffed onstage.
Lukas and his band, Promise of the Real released their first album, Promise of the Real, at the end of 2010. The band toured extensively promoting the album. They played many major festivals. They have since cut four more albums.
Lukas Nelson Albums:
- Promise of the Real (2010)
- Wasted (2012)
- Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real (2016)
- Something Real (2017)
- Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) (2019)
Lukas Nelson, "Find Yourself"
4. Jack Johnson
Years Active: 1992–present
Origin: North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, U.S.
Jack Johnson was born in Oahu, Hawaii, on May 18, 1975. He was the son of surfer Jeff Johnson. Jack surfed from an early age, and he tried his hand as a pro. His surfing career ended when he had a surfing accident that required 150 stitches in his forehead and knocked out a few of his teeth. The incident was the inspiration for his song “Drink the Water.”
Jack played guitar from childhood. He is mainly known for his super mellow soft rock and acoustic music.
He achieved great commercial success with his first album, Brushfire Fairytales. It continued with In Between Dreams in 2005, Sleep Through the Static in 2008, To the Sea in 2010, and From Here to Now to You in 2013.
In addition to writing songs and playing music, Johnson is a filmmaker and is very passionate about green energy, the environment, and education. He gives his time and money generously to causes he believes in.
Jack Johnson Albums:
- Brushfire Fairytales (2001)
- On and On (2003)
- In Between Dreams (2005)
- Sleep Through the Static (2008)
- To the Sea (2010)
- From Here to Now to You (2013)
- All the Light Above It Too (2017)
Jack Johnson, "Subplots"
5. Ben Harper
Years Active: 1992–present
Origin: Pomona, California, U.S.
American singer-songwriter Ben Harper plays an eclectic mix of blues, folk, soul, reggae, and rock music. He also receives rave reviews for his guitar and slide guitar skills.
He was born in Pomona, California on October 8, 1969. Raised by his mom, he learned to play guitar as a child. He learned to love music through his maternal grandparents, who ran a music store.
When he was nine years old, Harper went to a Bob Marley concert. It made quite an impression, as Marley became an important musical influence.
Harper has won three Grammy Awards. One for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and one for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album in 2005. He also won a grammy for Best Blues Album in 2014.
I got turned on to Ben Harper when I saw him play at the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park.
Ben Harper Albums:
- Welcome to the Cruel World (1994)
- Fight for Your Mind (1995)
- The Will to Live (1997)
- Burn to Shine (with The Innocent Criminals) (1999)
- Diamonds on the Inside (2003)
- There Will Be a Light (with The Blind Boys of Alabama) (2004)
- Both Sides of the Gun (2006)
- Lifeline (with The Innocent Criminals) (2007)
- White Lies for Dark Times (with Relentless7) (2009)
- Give Till It's Gone (2011)
- Get Up! (with Charlie Musselwhite) (2013)
- Childhood Home (with Ellen Harper) (2014)
- Call It What It Is (with The Innocent Criminals) (2016)
- No Mercy in This Land (with Charlie Musselwhite) (2018)
Ben Harper, "With My Own Two Hands"
6. Jackie Greene
Years Active: 2002–present
Origin: Salinas, California, U.S.
I've been following Americana singer/songwriter Jackie Greene's career since I first saw him play at the the fairgrounds in Auburn, California. He was 21 then, but he looked about 14. I recognized him right away as an amazing talent. He writes fantastic songs and plays piano, guitar, banjo, and harmonica.
While at the festival, I picked up a copy of his first two CDs Rusty Nails, and Gone Wanderin'. I also got Positively 12th and K, which is a tribute album to Bob Dylan. I still listen to all of those CDs.
By the time he was 38, this prolific composer had 11 albums under his belt. He has collaborated with former Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir since 2007. He has also toured with Gov't Mule. Some of the bands he's played with include The Weir/Robinson/Greene Trio, Trigger Hippy, Black Crowes, and (of course) his own Jackie Greene Band.
Jackie Green Albums:
- Gone Wanderin' (2002)
- Rusty Nails (2003)
- Sweet Somewhere Bound (2004)
- American Myth (2006)
- Giving Up the Ghost (2008)
- Small Tempest (2009) 
- Till the Light Comes (2010)
- Back to Birth (2015)
- The Modern Lives – Vol 1 (2017)
- The Modern Lives - Vol 2 (2018)
- Live from Town Hall (2019)
Jackie Greene, "Don't Let The Devil Take Your Mind"
7. James Hunter
Years Active: 1986–present
Origin: Colchester, Essex, England
When you hear James Hunter's 1950s influenced R&B, you might think you have stepped right into another era. However, there's nothing stale about the songs Hunter writes.
I love his CDs, but the best way to hear James Hunter is live. With his over-the-top cockney accent, snappy wit, and retro suit that borders on tacky, Hunter is one of those performers that really connects with the crowd.
Born into a working class family in Colchester, England, Hunter spent time as a railroad construction worker. His career in music began with a band called "Howlin' Wilf and the Vee-Jays." They released their first album, Cry Wilf, in 1986.
R&B legend Van Morrison, sang back up on Hunter's first solo album, Believe What I Say, in 1996. This led to a tour with Morrison in the late 1990s. Hunter also sang back up on Morrison's albums A Night in San Francisco and Days Like This. Van Morrison has remained one of James Hunter's biggest supporters, calling him "one of the best voices, and best kept secrets, in British R&B and Soul."
The year 2006 saw the smooth crooner's first U.S. release with People Gonna' Talk on Rounder Records. The album was nominated for a Grammy and made it to #1 on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart.
James Hunter Abums:
- Believe What I Say (1996)
- Kick it Around (1999) Ruf Records, produced by Boz Boorer
- People Gonna Talk (2006) Rounder Records
- The Hard Way (2008) Hear Music
The James Hunter Six:
- Minute By Minute (2013)
- Hold On! (2016)
- Whatever It Takes (2018)
James Hunter, "Don’t Do Me No Favours"
8. Paul Thorn
Years Active: 1997–present
Origin: Tupelo Mississippi, U.S.
Paul Thorn's music has elements of Southern Rock, Country, Blues, and Rock, but he has said that Americana is the genre that “took him in.”
He was the son of a Pentecostal preacher in Tupelo Mississippi. That’s where he learned about music, and showmanship.
He is a man of words. At his live shows, Paul often introduces a song by telling a funny story about it. The stories are charmingly delivered in his delightful southern drawl.
He is self-produced by choice—he likes the freedom it gives him. He even creates the art on his CD covers. The power of the Internet offers independent musicians like him an alternative to signing with big record companies. No longer shackled by onerous contracts, they have the creative freedom to play what they love.
He released his last four CDs under his own label, called Perpetual Obscurity.
Paul Thorn Albums:
- Hammer and Nail (1997)
- Ain’t Love Strange (1999)
- Live at Short Street Package Store (2000)
- Mission Temple Fireworks Stand (2002)
- Are You With Me? (2004)
- So Far So Good: Best of the Paul Thorn Band Live (2005)
- A Long Way from Tupelo (2008)
- Pimps and Preachers (2010)
- What the Hell Is Goin' On? (2012)
- Too Blessed to be Stressed (2014)
- Don't Let the Devil Ride (2018)
In the video below he is playing on Delbert McClinton's Sandy Beaches Cruise. That's where I first learned about Paul Thorn.
Paul Thorn, "Everything's Gonna Be Alright"
9. Supersonic Blues Machine
Years Active: 2015–Present
Origin: California, U.S.
Supersonic Blues Machine is a rockin' blues band reminiscent of blues rock bands of the sixties and seventies. Band members include Lance Lopez (guitars/vocals/songwriter), Fabrizio Grossi (bass, producer, songwriter), and Kenny Aronoff (drums).
They released their first album, West of Flushing South of Frisco, in early 2016.
On their second album, Californisoul, they are joined by Walter Trout, Steve Lukather, Billy F. Gibbons, Eric Gales, and Robben Ford. The theme of the album is the soundtrack for a road trip up the California coastline in the early '70s.
A third album, Road Chronicles: Live!, was released in 2019.
Supersonic Blues Machine Albums:
- West of Flushing South of Frisco (2016)
- Californisoul (2017)
- Road Chronicles: Live! (2019)
Supersonic Blues Machine (feat. Walter Trout), "What's Wrong"
10. Aynsley Lister
Years Active: 1995–present
Origin: Leicester, England
Aynsley Lister's music is blues based, but he incorporates contemporary influences. His music is reminiscent of a young Eric Clapton. He has opened for many blues greats, and often headlines major festivals in Europe.
Lister was born November 14th, 1976 in Leicester, England. He started playing guitar at the age of eight, inspired by his father's record collection. By the time he was a teen, he was playing in bands and writing songs (cutting two albums by the time he was 21).
In 2013, Lister released his tenth album, Home. It is the debut release for his own label, "Straight Talkin' Records," set up in partnership with his wife and manager, Stephanie Lister. In 2014, the album won Lister awards for "Best Songwriter" and "Best Song" at the British Blues Awards.
Aynsley Lister Albums:
- Messin' with the Kid (1996)
- Pay Attention! (1997)
- Aynsley Lister (1999)
- Everything I Need (2000)
- Supakev 'n Pilchards (2002)
- All or Nothing (2002)
- Live! (and DVD) (2004)
- Pilgrimage (and DVD) as part of Blues Caravan (2005)
- Upside Down (2007)
- Equilibrium (2009)
- Tower sessions (2010)
- Home (2013)
- Eyes Wide Open (2016)
Aynsley Lister, "Everything I Have to Give"
More New Music Coming Soon
I hope I have introduced you to some newer music you may not have heard before. I think these musicians are living proof that good music is alive and well in the 21st century. I am working on another article about new musicians. Keep an eye out for it.
© 2019 Sherry Hewins
Arun on February 24, 2020:
seem to like the same type of music. After reading your profile today, it only makes sense. that's good, I lived most of my adulthood on the back of a Harley.
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on September 22, 2019:
Thanks for checking out my musical selections Peggy. Certainly you hear great voices on "The Voice." A lot of the musicians I have featured are not only singers, but also songwriters and instrumentalists.
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on September 22, 2019:
Wow Shauna, Thanks for your enthusiastic comment. I appreciate your high opinion of my work.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 22, 2019:
One of my favorite shows on television is "The Voice." So I know that there are still terrific vocalists out there. Thanks for introducing me to these artists. I have to admit my being unfamiliar with them. I listened to each of the videos for a short time.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 14, 2019:
Sherry, I always look forward to your posts. I apologize for not commenting in a timely fashion. I (still) work full time, so my HP reads are limited to my lunch hours. Since I work on a computer all day, I avoid my laptop after hours and on the weekends. Today is an exception since I had to file several DMCA reports, so I thought I'd try to catch up.
I love this line up. You and I seem to like the same type of music. After reading your profile today, it only makes sense. I lived most of my adulthood on the back of a Harley. Road trips, spending the night in campgrounds, hanging out by a campfire, singing with and to the bikers that never ride without their guitar, are fond memories of mine. Dancing outside a biker bar to awesome live music, just being my (wild) self. Oh, how I miss it!
This lineup is amazing. I've never heard of any of these bands. I was thrilled to see Willie's son. Any offspring of Willie's is someone I want to pay attention to. I've seen Willie in concert four time. Once he featured his sister on piano. That was back in the early '80s. Awesome! Lukas has a reggae vibe, as do most of the bands featured here. Ganga effect? I have no problem with that. :)
The only band I didn't care for in this lineup is Greta Van Fleet. But I've never been a big Zep fan, other than "Stairway to Heaven". Call me unAmerican - whatever. Not into hard rock.
Your articles are so well-written and presented. Have you ever considered pitching to Rolling Stone or another publication, even your local newspaper? You definitely have the talent and you bring unknowns to the forefront. You have a give, Sherry. Think about it.