My Favorite Music of 2022
Who says rock music is dead, or dying? 2022 has been an outstanding year for rock music that showcases real musicians playing real instruments.
Rock may be a bit underground these days but it always excels when it is rebellious with a chip on its shoulders. So let’s talk about my favorite artists and music from 2022. We are seeing an incredible amount of rock musicians these days that don’t get any exposure because rock music hasn’t been mainstream in forever. I love seeing the new generation pick up and excel at playing real, live instruments while playing homage to rock heroes. Let me share with you some of my favorites that, if you’re a lover of rock and roll and real live musicians, you should check out.
Oh yeah, who am I, and what qualifies me to ask for your time to read or care about my lists? I’m Jason Johantges and not only have I been a founding member of the local band Ghost Town Silence since 2005 but I’m also the co-host of The All Things Blues and Southern Rock podcast with my buddy from Fargo (Brrrrrr) ND, Brian Jones. We focus a lot on new or lesser-known acts that are blues or southern rock aka rock from the south. You hear some episodes with legends or artists outside that blues and southern rock genre as well since we love all things rock.
Best Band in the Land Division
● Blackberry Smoke (Atlanta) – These are the southern rock flag bearers and are one of the top live performers out there. They perfectly mix Skynyrd, Zeppelin, and Stones with a bit of country flair at times. Their most recent album “You Hear Georgia” is a great starting point but their masterpiece is “The Whippoorwill” of which they’re currently on tour celebrating the 10th anniversary. They never have a bad performance and each show is two hours long. Their live show is not to be missed no matter the tour. They released an album for record store day titled “Stoned” that is Rolling Stones covers and my clearly biased opinion is they cover the Stones better than anyone.
Local(ish) Talent Division
● The Cold Stares (Evansville, IN) – Trio that is a mix of Zeppelin, Buddy Guy, and Rage Against the Machine. Heavy Hitters with riffs and grooves done by great dudes. PLEASE check ‘em out with their latest record “Heavy Shoes.” They have a new album coming out in early 2023 that is incredible(I’ve had a sneak peek). This band should be skyrocketing to the top of the rock heap and should be on your playlists.
● Mojo Thunder (Lexington, KY) – AC/DC meets Skynyrd. Their album “Hymns from the Electric Church” will get you fired up. They are heading to Europe in early ‘23 then will be back in the states playing at their favorite KY, OH, and midwest locations.
● Erin Coburn (Cincinnati, OH) – Incredibly talented 21-year-old blues/rock guitarist and singer. She even shreds on the electric ukulele. Always on tour. Check her out on youtube and all her social media accounts. New record coming in ‘23.
● Scotty Bratcher (Dayton, OH) – Veteran Blues-rock guitarist. He’s back doing solo work after a stint with The Desert City Ramblers. Check out his album “That Album.” Lots of local shows and brings the Allman Bros, Zeppelin, and ZZ Top vibes to each show.
● Goodbye June – Total heavy hitter rock with blues and southern touches. Their latest album “See Where the Night Goes” is on my top three for the year. Also incredible live performers. Three records in and they’ve hit their stride with a new album coming in late ‘23. Their song “Three Chords” is the best arena rock song in years. Catch ‘em now before they’re headlining bigger venues.
● Them Dirty Roses – Country fried Guns n Roses. Road dogs are always on tour, somewhere. Mix in 80’s rock with southern/country-inspired hooks. They put on a fantastic live show. They released four new tracks in ‘22 with hopes of a new album in ‘23. Check out tracks “Sunday Drunk” and “Holy Roller”.
● Leilani Kilgore – Up and coming blues rock guitarist and singer. One of the next big things. Think Samantha Fish mixed with Joe Bonammassa with some Joan Jett thrown in. She has six great singles out, each with a video on youtube. Album is expected in ‘23 and she’s getting fantastic press everywhere she plays. Here’s a live performance:
● Jax Hollow – Another up-and-coming female guitarist and singer. Much more rock influence and she can shred. Her first album was produced by the legendary Michael Wagener. The new album is coming early next year. Think of her as Jimmy Page and Robert Plant rolled into one.
● Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown – Rock, blues, and metal with a classic rock pedigree as a second guitar player, Graham Whitford, is the son of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford. Their latest album “Shake the Roots” is incredible. Maybe the best at balancing traditional blues and heavy guitar rock from song to song. Their album “Shake the Roots” is in my top 5 for the year.
● Larkin Poe – Sisters that have been laying down beautifully harmonized blues and folk rock for many years. Rebecca plays lead guitar and takes care of lead vocals while her sister Megan plays lap steel guitar and provides backing vocals. Check out the album “Blood Harmony” was released this past November. Another great live band and no one does vocal harmonies better. Rebecca is also married to Tyler Bryant making them the best married rock couple of the moment.
● The Dead Deads – Female trio that mixes the best of alternative rock, metal, and pop with guitar riffs and vocal melodies for days. Their 2021 record “Tell Your Girls it’s Alright) made my top three. Check out their cover of Mother Love Bone’s “Chloe Dancer” or their duet with Slipknot’s Corey Taylor in “Murder Ballad pt 2”. If you love luscious vocals with some meaty rock hocks this is your band.
The All-Others Division
● Bourbon House (Milwaukee – ish, WI) – Female-fronted Zeppelin-inspired blues rock. Their latest album “Into the Red” is a great choice. Plenty of videos on youtube as well. They’ve released four new tracks so far this year with a new album coming in ‘23. One of the best blues hard rock bands you’ve never heard of.
● Joyous Wolf (Anaheim, CA) – The new sound of classic/modern rock. Their frontman, Nick Reese, is high-energy and known for his on-stage acrobatics. They’ve played shows with Classless Act, Dorothy, and many other up-and-comers. Maybe the heirs to the modern rock throne. Rumors of a new album in ‘23.
● Marcus King (Greenville, NC) – MAYBE, the most talented young guitarist on the planet. Check out “Young Blood” released this past fall. Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes has previously produced records for Marcus. He embodies the spirit of all that’s good in RB/Rock/Blues and his live shows are not to be missed. Just mesmerizing guitar work.
● Jane Lee Hooker (Brooklyn, NC) – Powerful blues rock out of NYC. If you love guitar work this band has dual lead players with solos for days. Powerhouse singer Dana “Danger” has one of the best voices in the genre. Their album “Drive” released in the spring of 2022 is a top release of the year. Occasionally they make it out our way so be ready to jump on tickets for that rare occasion. A personal favorite band for me.
● Dorothy (San Diego, CA) – THE voice and flagbearer of female-led rock/hard rock. Her latest album “Gifts from the Holy Ghost” plays homage to modern, classic, and blues rock with some of the best musicians in the business laying down tracks for her. Full of uplifting and inspirational lyrics taken from her life experiences. This album was also produced by Trev Lukather son of Toto great Steve Lukather.
● Tuk Smith and the Restless Hearts (Nashville, TN) – Former Biters frontman who just released a hook-laden rock record this year titled “Ballad of A Misspent Youth”. This is a refreshing mix of mainstream rock music with songs around the three-minute mark. He was originally supposed to open for the Arena Tour until record release delays interfered. Then he was replaced by…
● Classless Act (Los Angeles, CA) – Take the cream of the 80’s Hollywood metal scene (Guns n Roses, Motley Crue) and mix it with useful exuberance and tons of fun and you have Classless Act. These young rockers are having fun playing shows, whether opening for Dorothy or Def Leppard. Their debut album “Welcome to the Show” was released this past summer and, while not breaking new ground, laid the groundwork for a future full of fun and guitar riffs. Check out Motley Crue’s Vince Neil and The
Darkness’s Justin Hawkins lent their vocals to tracks on the album. Nostalgia/Classic Acts Not to be Missed.
● LA Guns (Los Angeles, CA) – This band has had a late-career resurgence with three great recent albums culminating in the 2021 masterpiece “Checkered Past”. This album keeps the 80’s/early 90’s metal spirit with modern sensibilities. Guitarist Tracii Guns was a founding member of Guns n Roses (hence the “Guns”) with Axl Rose. I saw them this past summer on the Sonic Slam tour with Faster Pussycat and Tom Kiefer (Cinderella) and they were the highlight of the show. Singer Phil Lewis sounded no different from 1988 (no vocal tracks either) while Tracii and another guitar Ace Von Johnson ran around the stage with guitar heroics not sadly seen since 1992. They are the cream of the 80’s hard rockers crop and rumor has it their upcoming 2023 album is their best yet.
● Tiffany (Los Angeles, CA) – Yes, THAT Tiffany released a pop-rock album in November titled “Shadows” backed up by LA Guns’ Ace Von Johnson. This album is a perfect mix of pop hooks and rock guitars. I originally listened to this album based on morbid curiosity but walked away more than impressed. I’ve spun this album two dozen times since its release. Drop any preconceived notions and enjoy.
Jason’s Top Five Albums of 2022
10. Dorothy – Gifts from the Holy Ghost
9. Moon City Masters – The Famous Moon City Masters
8. Tiffany – Shadows
7. Larkin Poe – Blood Harmony
6. Jane Lee Hooker – Drive
5. Tuk Smith and the Restless Hearts – Ballad of a Misspent Youth
4. Bourbon House – Into the Red
3. Marcus King – “Young Blood”
2. Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown – Shake the Roots
1. Goodbye June – See Where the Night Goes
We are entering a great time in music where most bands are independent acts and can do what they want. Because of this, we are seeing a steady stream of great, yet diverse music more than ever before. So go listen and find some new music that you didn’t know about and it can become a favorite on your playlists.
Go follow, like and subscribe to my podcast to learn about new rock music. Because rock ain’t dead, not even close. It’s just back to being underground and rebellious. Go support some of these great artists.