TJ West: LA Roots Radar

By Kim Grant

I am lucky enough to live in a city where there is an abundance of live music, and where (if you have the stamina) you can see a different artist or band play every night.  The Los Angeles Americana roots scene keeps getting stronger, with 2018 seeing artists such as The Record Company, Sam Morrow, Leslie Stevens, Mapache, and Jaime Wyatt all raise their national profiles.  The Grand Ole Echo is still going strong and is a hotbed of new and established artists, as well as the ongoing series The Ranch Party at EB’s Beer and Wine Bar. There is also the fairly new Love Song Bar, which has embraced Americana music, The Bootleg Theatre, Hotel Cafe and famed dive bar, The Cinema Bar, which established a lot of roots rock artists in the 80’s and 90’s. I’ve also seen quite a few live performances in The Echo Park record store, Cosmic Vinyl which has turned me on to a lot of new talent. With a lot of talented musicians on my radar, here is a list of artists to keep an eye on in 2019.



LA native Mara Connor just released her debut single and music video “No Fun” which garnered praise from Rolling Stone (as a “Song You Need to Know” and in their “This Week In Music” playlist) and radio play on 88.5 KCSN and 88.9 KXLU. The song was recorded to tape at the Bomb Shelter in Nashville, produced by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes). “No Fun” is the first single off her forthcoming debut album which includes duets with Langhorne Slim and Joseph Arthur.

WHAT THE ARTIST TELLS US — ”While writing ‘No Fun’ I was listening to George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass.’ The song came to me the night before I flew to Nashville to record. I threw a piece of paper with some scribbled lyrics in my suitcase and finished writing the song in the studio as we started recording.”  |  fb  |  buy



Rob Leines’ music originated in the Southeast within the Appalachian Mountains.  With the influence of Country, Rock and Roll, and Blues, his unique Americana sound was born on the hills of Tennessee.  Soon after Leines expanded to the west. While welding and metal working for the oil and gas industry along the pacific coast, Rob’s music took on a more raw and gritty side. The blue collar lifestyle and southern roots make for a genuine representation of the American songwriter through his music.  The Rob Leines Band is a fresh sound, with a rowdy charisma and attitude that country rock needs. His latest album, Bad Seed was released May 13th, 2018.

WHAT THE ARTIST TELLS US — ‘“Blue Collar” is a song for the working man/woman. This song is about taking pride in whatever you do and do it to the best of your ability.”  |  fb  |  buy



New Jersey transplant, Paige Calico debuted a 6-song solo EP in 2016, Crying Diamonds, which received rave reviews from Elmore Magazine, PopMatters and more.  In 2017 she recorded 3 singles with Los Angeles producer, Yay Blynn.  Known for lush harmonies, she is able to create dreamy landscapes with her voice. She was an original member of the folk duo The Dwells, and when they parted ways, she was already working with iconic music photographer Henry Diltz, which lead to  her move to Los Angeles.

WHAT THE ARTIST TELLS US — “I wanted to create a video based on translations and opposites, which sums up ‘Country Mind. I often struggle with feeling like I’m meant to be in another place than I am. Especially when it comes to country vs. city life. The contrast of Vashon Island in Washington state and Seattle felt like a perfect fit for just that. Ending on ‘dreaming of what could be won’t change the fate of time’ — no matter where you choose to be, there you are, and there’s your pal fate unraveling as it will regardless. Life is really just about learning to be happy with wherever you find yourself with whatever you have. Acceptance.”  |  fb  |  buy



Dylan Rodrigue, a 26-year old rocker and singer-songwriter based in LA, will release his first studio album, Cat’s Game on January 25th via Palomino Records in the US and Bad Paintings in the UK.  The album was produced, engineered and mixed by Evan Jiroudeck (INNocent Alex, Lake Ryan & Bones Muhroni,) at Sound Orgy Palace (SOP) Studios and mastered by Jason NeSmith of the Elephant 6 Collective in Athens, GA (Of Montreal, Daniel Johnston, Casper & the Cookies).  Cat’s Game features stripped down acoustic folk, Neil Young inspired electric guitar rock, and Stooges-esque punk. Rodrigue, who loves exploring all genres and musical forms, can jump between intimate and quiet to loud and abrasive.  Cat’s Game falls on the side of more intimate and acoustic, though there are some louder electric rockers, such as “The Money Game” and “Minimize the Damage”. “My main concern was to have no instrument get in the way of the lyrics,” he specified.

WHAT THE ARTIST TELLS US — “White Moon” is song imagining the moon looking down at the earth and seeing all of the chaos and destruction. It’s also about being a human from the earth and needing some kind of salvation to help transcend the bleak reality. The moon takes on the role of an omnipresent being that can bring about a sense of hope when there appears to be none.”  |  fb  |  buy



There is no way to pigeon-hole this cross-genre chanteuse. From Rock to Pop, Soul to Jazz, she can do it all, and then some. Though her rich voice can handle the tenderness of a somber jazz song, add a dash of vocal acrobatics to an upbeat R&B or Pop song, her powerful pipes are unstoppable when it comes to Rock!

Her high-energy on-stage performances prove she knows how to work a crowd! Compared to superstars like Tina Turner, P!nk, Robyn, Lauryn Hill and even Sarah Vaughn, Kitten Kuroi is emerging as a superstar in her own right.

As a professional singer and songwriter, she has worked with and traveled the world with artists like Elvis Costello, Natasha Bedingfield, Theo Parrish, Engelbert Humperdinck, Rickey Minor (Whitney Houston), Jon B, Frenchie Davis, Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Pixie Lott, Darren Criss (GLEE!), LeAnn Rimes, Forrest Whittaker, Andy Samberg, Chris Isaak, Queen Latifah, Ashley Roberts of the Pussy Cat Dolls and many more.

Though music is her first love, she is also Vegan and an activist in both the animal and human rights community in Los Angeles, CA.

WHAT THE ARTIST TELLS US — “This is an Acoustic Pop track about the depths of vulnerability and love being less than you’ve built it up to be.”  |  fb  |  spot



Blue Rose Rounders are a gang of old friends brought together by Emily Rose Epstein in the summer of 2017, at the conclusion of her other country project. The Rounders includes high school friend JC Chan on pedal steel and lead guitar, David “Tasty Dave” Fox on bass and Jordan Edwards on drums. Emily Rose on vocals and guitar. The band is heavily influenced by bands like X, the Gun Club and Dead Moon but the Rounders sound leans more toward Patsy, Waylon, Tom T. Hall.

WHAT THE ARTIST TELLS US — “’Dallas’ is a song that came to me in a moment, almost like a breath. It’s about wanting to be somewhere else, being somewhere else in your mind, feeling like nothings exciting except what you can’t have or the idea of something you can’t have. It’s not too apathetic, it’s kind of just about being content to dream and wonder.”




Deeply rooted in Americana music, Los Angeles natives The Folks & Co bring an eclectic blend of country, blues, folk and rock n roll. Sergio Rincon and Gabriel Torres who are the songwriters for Folks & Co. have been playing together since their teens. They met one night in Cudahy  with mutual friends and jammed. Since then they’ve been playing together with different people. The current outfit has David Halicky on drums/vocals and William Fernandez on bass.

WHAT THE ARTIST TELLS US — “This tune is about the loveliest human being one has met and is with. No matter whom comes around to steal this heart, it can’t be stolen because “Honey Suckle Wine” has me on the line.”


Kim Grant

Kim Grant

After growing up listening to Dolly, Merle and Willie, Kim Grant spent the 90’s immersed in the Chicago indie rock scene. Spending many nights at the famed (now-defunct) venue Lounge Ax, bands like Bad Livers, Giant Sand, Handsome Family, Palace Brothers and Wilco turned her on to what was then called Alt-Country. After moving to Los Angeles in 2000, she found this same feeling of musical community at a tiny west side bar called The Cinema Bar where she met artists, Mike Stinson, Randy Weeks, Tony Gilkyson, Ramsay Midwood, and Kip Boardman. These talented folks spurred her enthusiasm for the Southern California roots music scene and the Americana music scene as a whole. Now a music publicist, Grant (alongside Liz Garo and Pam Moore) founded the Los Angeles, weekly roots music series, The Grand Ole Echo in 2005. Also with Garo, Grant helped to curate the Roots Roadhouse American-roots music festival in both 2011 and 2012. Also in 2011 she began co-producing a SXSW day party with Julie Richmond titled, Grand Ole Austin which is still going strong. Visit TJ West on fb and
Kim Grant

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