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California State University, Northridge

The Evolution Of Great Musicians

When you hear The Beatles, you know it's The Beatles. Same with David Bowie. Same with Pearl Jam. Oddly enough, the unique quality of these bands were their ability to evolve and change over their career. Many bands fail trying taking next step or finding a new direction. So what's the key to great musicians and their long term success? It's a complicated answer to say the least, but two artists just showed how do it: Ray LaMontagne and The Black Keys.

LaMontagne has been a staple for folk rock over the past decade and every album seems to have a new ear catcher on it. With his new album, however, he explored new sounds by incorporating a 1960s vibe. "Supernova" seemed outside of his normal range with a catchy hook and slick production, but within the context of the album it makes perfect sense. He took on a psychedelic sound on "Lavender" while going a little country on "Ojai". His signature vocals obviously keep the songs his, but beyond that the music is still rooted in what he's created before. His outstanding lyrics are still there along with the folk sound that has always been his base.


The Black Keys are following up from a blues rock album filled almost entirely with with catchy lyrics and straightforward songwriting.  This time, they delved into a more diverse song structure with a more exploratory sound, however their vocals and blues rock base remains. Yet again, a band found a way to expand their music while remaining true to their core sound.


What musician do you think has successfully walked the line between exploration and staying true to their sound?