Bakersfield country had a trio of noteworthy moments by some honest-to-goodness homegrown talent, with two California-themed singles and a strong re-release.
“California,” Celeigh Chapman: Although living in Los Angeles, Bakersfield singer-songwriter Celeigh Chapman represents for her hometown wherever she goes. She released one of this year’s best independent EPs — “The Winner” (produced by John Spiker of Tenacious D), a five-song collection of West Coast country originals — whose personal lyrics and timely sound was another reminder of how much brilliance can still be found off the beaten radio path. On “California,” Chapman faces her fork in the road in an ode to SoCal/Laurel Canyon country.
“The Other California,” Smokin Armadillos: Bakersfield country fans should remember these local good ol’ boys who struck it big in the '90s. Selling thousands of copies of their debut EP “Out of the Burrow” in 1993, they also signed to Curb Records in 1996 for their full-length debut. After parting ways in 2005 for solo projects and family time, the original ‘Dillos lineup returned with a new single reminiscent of their years in the fray of the new country '90s. The band is in fine form on the track that pays tribute to our area’s hard working, California lifestyle.
“You’re Right,” Truxton Mile: Although it preceded both Chapman and the ‘Dillos, Bakersfield’s Truxton Mile also celebrated a banner year nurturing their ever-growing fanbase on the strength of this re-released radio-worthy single. The sleepy music industry is notorious for taking its sweet time, so these Bakersfield/Taft boys took matters into their own hands hitting the road and landing nominations for band of the year and song of the year at the 2017 California Country Awards held earlier this month.
Now if they could all get some local radio play?
Hate Drugs: A fantastic full-length release (“Tsunami Soul II”) complete with a full promotional DIY marketing campaign that included videos and regular engagement with fans and supporters, it was hard to miss the dream pop sound and visuals of Hate Drugs. But just in case you haven’t experienced the buzz of this outstanding unit of forward-thinking local musicians, there was never a better year than 2017 to jump on board. My pick for Bakersfield band of the year. Find Hate Drugs online at thehatedrugs.com or catch them Saturday at World Records’ Dream Theater complex for their release party.
Patrick Spurlock/Phantom Stranger Productions: If your band needed help getting a show together in one of few local venues offering live music, chances are you consulted with Bakersfield show promoter Patrick “Pat” Spurlock of Phantom Stranger Inc. for guidance. With a tireless and no-nonsense business style, Spurlock has been a (patient) friend to countless local and touring bands for sometime now. He does it all — from booking, marketing and hospitality, to running the door, stage sound sometimes on the same night, even releasing the debut CD by local punk ska band The Secret Sauce — stepping up to the plate for the betterment of the local music scene this year in a major way.
“Tus Labios,” Velorio: This Bakersfield Latin alternative outfit produced a seriously catchy, mid-tempo Latin gem showing off some ambitious vocals and contemporary pop arranging with help from Ozomatli bassist Wil-Dog Abers in the studio. If you were one of the millions who downloaded “Despacito” this year and don’t know Spanish, “Tus Labios” could easily be added to the same playlist. Available on iTunes and Spotify.