Carsie Blanton is that rare artist who knows how to combine savvy stagecraft and airtight songs with a revolutionary spirit. Take her latest hit, “Rich People,” which swept TikTok by storm with over 3 million views and, true to its name, laid bare wealth inequality in the process. Songs like “Shit List” and “Dealin’ with the Devil” lampoon neo-Nazis and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, respectively, and indicate why she has been hailed as an artist who creates “beautiful, militant anthems,” with the ability to make ”revolution desirable to your body, even if your head resists it” (NPR, American Songwriter).
Despite the struggles she readily acknowledges, Blanton retains a sense of hope, which shines through in her songs and performances. “When you spend your time watching the news or social media, people seem cruel and stupid,” she says. “But I think that by a wide margin, people are good, and want to take care of each other.” Her songs “Be Good” and “Lovin’ is Easy” are steeped in that spirit, inviting us to “love everybody alive.”
After keeping her band afloat throughout lockdown with live-streamed ‘Rent Parties’, going viral with a song memorializing John Prine (“Fishin with You), and releasing a critically acclaimed mid-pandemic album (2021’s Love and Rage, “fighting fascism with big hooks and an even bigger heart” – American Songwriter), Blanton chose to bring some nuance to her success, with her recent exposé in The Nation, laying bare the economics of the modern-day music industry.
The galvanizing spirit of her work is backed up by expertise. Blanton and her impeccably dressed “Handsome Band” bring skills betraying their long tenure as live musicians. Accompanied by Joe Plowman on bass, Patrick Firth on keys, and Sean Trischka on drums, their performances are a rich musical gumbo of genres, meandering from Americana and rock to cocktail jazz, Motown, and pop punk. With three-part harmonies thickening their sound, and kazoos leavening it, her dynamic sets range from slapstick jokes to call-and-response protest songs, making Blanton and her band “a festival presenter’s secret weapon, guaranteed to win over the crowd” (Promoter Roger Menell).
Blanton makes no attempt to disguise her far-left political leanings, but at the heart of her music is love, and her songs are capable of tethering us to our shared humanity across socio-political lines. No matter where they begin, every audience leaves her show transformed into friends and comrades, united in laughter, camaraderie, and hope.
In February 2023, 31-year-old Brittany Ann Tranbaugh (pronounced TRAN-baw) finally quit her office job to pursue a full-time music career. Though she began writing songs and playing gigs as a teenager, multiple bouts of creative and mental health struggles—culminating in a several years-long hiatus from music altogether in her mid-to-late 20s—prevented her from ever taking the full leap. Everything changed in 2021 when her longtime friend Jackson Emmer called her up and implored her to come out to Colorado and record her backlog of original songs with him. Tranbaugh hit the road and spent a week with Emmer in his home studio, resulting in Quarter Life Crisis Haircut, her comeback EP released in April 2022. Bouncing between witty sarcasm and heartbreaking vulnerability, the songs tackled a wide range of topics including her sixth grade queer awakening, an awkward run-in with an old acquaintance, and the impossibility of true folk music authenticity in our modern age. Listening back to the finished product, she began to feel the flickers of confidence again.
Tranbaugh’s music became even more powerful when she reunited with bassist Joe Plowman and guitarist Kevin Brosky, two old friends from her Temple University house show scene days. Plowman introduced drummer Adam Shumski, and the group instantly re-energized Tranbaugh’s musical instincts, with old songs gaining new life and new songs blossoming with lush arrangements. The supercharged group hit the Philly music scene and established themselves as local favorites, garnering praise from WXPN and drawing enthusiastic crowds.
In July 2022, Tranbaugh’s queer Americana heartbreaker “Kiss You” was awarded Song of the Year in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, which came with a $20,000 cash prize. She used the money to fly her band out to Los Angeles to record five songs with Grammy-winning producer Tyler Chester (Madison Cunningham, Margaret Glaspy, Watkins Family Hour), which proved to be a life-affirming trip. In March 2023, Tranbaugh released the first song from this new batch, the exuberant long-distance-relationship anthem “Can’t Wait No Rush.” Listeners can expect three more singles this summer and a self-titled EP in the fall. The new songs showcase Tranbaugh in her new era: energetic, self-assured, surrounded by her beloved musical community, and more commanding as a vocalist and writer than ever before.