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BEST VOCALIST (MALE) Minneapolis 2008 - Mike Gunther

When it comes to the discography of Mike Gunther and His Restless Souls, comparisons to Tom Waits are a necessary evil. But while Waits's voice box took nearly three decades to stagger from the piano lounge to the flophouse to the chicken coop to the machine shed, local Mike Gunther has developed a powerful vocal presence that manages to telescope not just Waits's career but whole epochs of American roots music in the span of a single chorus. Equally adept at a buttery croon, a scrapyard growl, and the frenzied, multi-register incantations of a traveling evangelist, Gunther expresses in his singing a predilection for all things antique and bygone. On Burn It Down for the Nails, his sophomore full-length, Gunther exhibits a sweeping vocal versatility. One hears echoes of Howlin' Wolf, of Charlie Parker, and of vintage Leonard Cohen. Even if it didn't come all gussied up in Gunther's immaculately rumpled three-piece suit, his would still be the most singular and unmistakable voice in the Twin Cities since Craig Finn packed his steamer trunk and split for the Big Apple.

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