July 17, 2018

The New Classic Rock Summertime Jams

Summer is a great time to discover new music. Whether you’re tending the grill, lounging poolside with a drink in hand, or throwing a party, it’s vital to have some good tunes rolling in the background. What to play, though? I know that I may be in the minority here, but I’m not much for a “Song of Summer” playlist. That’s not really my jam, and, to be honest, you can find that business all over the damn place. So, if you want your Cardi B and Drake, more power to you. But you best move along, cause it ain’t happening here.

For me, summer is the time for classic rock. Others agree, as, for two years in a row, classic rock has seen the most growth in audience share when comparing tune-in during the first five months of the year to June, July and August. I love nothing more than, beer in hand and surrounded by friends and family, putting on CCR’s Cosmo’s Factory or the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach and letting the album roll, start to finish.

Here’s the problem: I also like discovering and listening to new music, new bands that I can take in as my own and follow through their career. So, as much as I love, Zeppelin or Tom Petty or the Stones, there’s something to be said for waiting on a new song or album or tour from an artist working to make a dent in today’s musical landscape.

With that as my starting point, I’ve dedicated this summer to finding music that scratches that summertime classic rock itch. I’ve written before about whether rock and roll is dead or merely on life support, waiting to be jolted back alive by the right band at the right moment. If the following bands are any indication, the future of rock music is brighter than it might appear at first glance. These are not mere imitations of artists, but truly talented bands putting their modern spin on the classic rock genre. Give each a listen and find your new summer jam.

If you like the Rolling Stones, try:

The Record Company

Back when I was in college circa 2004, I’d often put on a record called The Big Come Up and, without fail, I’d have people ask who was playing this brand of grooving rock. It, of course, was a little two-piece band called The Black Keys. While the Keys have gone on to superstardom, I feel the same way about The Record Company as I used to about The Black Keys. TRC simply doesn’t write bad songs. Their tunes are slinky blues-infused rockers that you can’t help tapping your toe to. Their first album was phenomenal, with the hits “Off The Ground” and “Baby I’m Broken.” Crazily enough, they just put out a new record last month that might be even better. Their new single “Life to Fix” has already hit #2 on the alternative chart, but that’s far from the only great song on their new album. This new album All of This Life reminds me in so many ways of the Rolling Stones’ classic Exile on Main Street, one of my favorite records of all time. Seriously, check this band out if you haven’t already.

Best Bet: All of This Life

If you like Queen, try:

The Struts

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If you’re going to bet on one band from this list to blast into the mainstream, my money is on The Struts. This is admittedly kind of cheating, as songs from their debut have played on any number of commercials and TV shows. That said, most people probably aren’t familiar with the actual band. I absolutely loved their debut album, maybe as much as any debut album since The Strokes released Is This It. This is a band with swagger and hooks to spare. They’ve already had three songs chart in the U.S. (“Kiss This,” “Could Have Been Me,” and “Put Your Money on Me”), and Dave Grohl said that they were the best band to ever open for the Foo Fighters. They’ve also opened for the Rolling Stones and Motley Crue, so, yeah, they’re definitely on their way. Don’t be late to the party.

Best Bet: Everybody Wants

If you like the Eagles, try:

The Wild Feathers

I really liked the Wild Feathers’ first album, as well as their single “The Ceiling.” Then, their second album was a disappointment for me. Their just-released third album, however, is a perfect summer rock album. It’s a fantastic driving album, although it’s equally as good as the soundtrack to a backyard party. Every song has something interesting happening. This is a modern day country-rock masterpiece. Highest recommendation.

Best Bet: Greetings from the Neon Frontier

If you like the Allman Brothers, try:

The Marcus King Band

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Seriously, if you appreciate talent on loan from God, you have to check this band out. Marcus King is a 22 year old wunderkind, playing with the soul, wisdom, and chops of someone twice his age. Having played on his father’s (blues guitarist Marvin King) albums since he was 11, Marcus has the potential to become something very very big in the coming years.

Best Bet Album: The Marcus King Band

If you like the Band, try:

Blitzen Trapper

I’ve written about my love for Blitzen Trapper before, so it’s no surprise that they make their way on this list. Their ability to adapt and shift sounds throughout the course of an album could have made them a match for a number of different classic bands on this list. However, to me, their music and harmonies remind me most of an updated version of the Band. Singer Eric Earley is one of my favorite lyricists, writing with a clever darkness that is different from any other band I follow. With a ton of albums under their belt, there’s plenty to pick from in the Blitzen catalog.

Best Bet: Furr and American Goldwing

If you like Led Zeppelin, try:

Greta Van Fleet

Another one that is almost too easy. Greta Van Fleet burst onto the scene last year (which I covered here), and they’ve only continued their ascent from there. With Robert Plant-esque vocals, lead singer Josh Kiszka can howl with the best of them. The rest of the musicianship is pretty damn tight as well. With a new album on the way, this group from Michigan is poised to have a pretty impressive catalog of music for a group that doesn’t have a member over the age of 22.

Best Bet: From the Fires

If you like Tom Petty, try: 

The Shelters

This one was almost too easy, given the backstory. Tom Petty himself managed to catch a Shelters gig and ended up giving them the literal keys to Petty’s studio. There, Petty produced the group’s 2016 debut album. The Shelters opened for both Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Petty’s other band Mudcrutch. One listen to their (to this point) only album, and it’s easy to see what Petty liked about them.

Best Bet: The Shelters

Jason Mitchell
Jason Mitchell 31 Articles
Staff Writer

Jason grew up in Iowa but couldn't bring himself to like Iowa or Iowa State. Instead, he married a Cornhusker. Jason has taught junior high, high school, and college English but is now a stay-at-home dad to four kids. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of reality shows and 1990s professional wrestling.

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