BEST VOCALIST (FEMALE) Minneapolis 2006 -
Like fellow prairie bohemians Haley Bonar and Sara Softich, or Texas cult diva Jolie Holland, the Roe Family Singers are the new wave of old-time. They play traditional-sounding originals rooted in bluegrass, folk, and genres once labeled "hillbilly" and "race" when they were 78s—but with a streak of self-conscious spookiness. Comics artist Adam Wirtzfeld plays musical saw behind married singers Kim and Quillan Roe (the latter of Accident Clearinghouse), and the trio expands with other instrumentalists live. The effect of the saw, on the hand-to-hand 2005 EP Andronicus, is like hearing the wind whistle through a living-room jam. Yet even more striking are Kim's lead vocals, absent from recent shows as she travels abroad. The singer is soulful without melisma, perfectly in key without pushing, and vaguely Southern-sounding—she's like a soft-focus Dolly Parton. In other words, she's an earthy, modern natural among aficionados, which makes the minor-key cocaine tale of "White Horse" (no, not the Laid Back song) convincing and felt in its first-person narrative, rather than exotic or gothic. Listen for big things.