Despite the pandemic’s effect on live shows, Cleveland’s music scene displayed great resiliency in 2020. Endeavors such as the concert series Virtual Shows CLE and success stories such as Mourning [A] BLKstar appearing on United Kingdom music magazine The Wire delivered hope. Theresa May, the group’s trumpeter, says the local music community’s supportive nature stands out. “Here you put in the work and you get great results,” she says. “I feel like it’s a very supportive community for artists and creatives and up-and-coming people that want to do music for a living.” While May’s group has become more established, the future’s also looking bright for these six artists who are poised to have a big 2021 with some help from those in the know.
Historical preservation and top-notch musicianship collide within Alla Boara, which performs intricate jazz arrangements of Italian folk songs. Founded by drummer Anthony Taddeo initially as a graduate school project, the troupe has evolved into a more permanent endeavor featuring other local musicians such as Apollo’s Fire vocalist Amanda Powell. “[Alla Boara] is very melodic — interesting and accessible,” says Gabe Pollack, director of the Bop Stop, where the group has performed. “At times, it’s pretty meditative. It’s calming music.” facebook.com/allaboara
Formed in late 2018, the eclectic band has spent the last few years setting stages ablaze, thanks to an energetic live show rooted in soul- and blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll sounds. Jason Meyers, who co-hosts the Northeast Ohio-music focused radio show NEORocks on John Carroll University’s radio station, WJCU, especially praises the efforts of singer-songwriter and keyboardist Mikey Silas. “The amount of conviction that he has with every word he sings — it’s impossible not to listen to him and go, ‘Wow, I believe everything you’re singing about right now,’ ” he says. “That really comes through in their music.” facebook.com/apostlejonesmusic
Eli Tha Don
One of 2020’s most exciting Cleveland hip-hop acts, Eli Tha Don’s songwriting and storytelling prowess shone through on the 30 Days of Night album. Archie Green, an artist and activist, first became aware of the rapper via 2019’s No Rest For The Wicked. “As soon as I heard the project, I was blown away,” he says, comparing the rapper’s sound and approach to Notorious B.I.G. “Just as far as hip-hop artists coming out of Cleveland, he was the first one that got me excited in a long time — and it’s primarily just because of the way everything was presented: his lyricism and his delivery and replay value.” facebook.com/elithadon216
One of Mourning [A] BLKstar’s vocalists, LaToya Kent has also stepped out as a solo act, releasing the album Nothing in November. “Gestures,” a single of the album, features a relaxed, lo-fi, R&B-type of chill, according to May, who has an up-close view of her bandmate’s gifts. “She is very creative, and she has a very distinct vocal sound,” says May. “It’s a relaxing sound. Some [songs] can be a little bit more electric, but a lot of her music is really free and really calming. facebook.com/latoyakentmusic
Corry Michaels had a busy 2020. The singer-songwriter released a collaboration with Columbus rapper Joey Aich (“Close”), a holiday song (“Christmas To Me!”) and a full-length album, Give All Yourself. It all illustrates his nimble genre hopscotching — danceable synth-pop, heartfelt electro-soul and even soaring pop ballads. “He writes with purpose,” says Meyers. “He’s writing from the heart. He’s got all these songs that really mean a lot to him, that have meaning behind them and that have a story behind them.” facebook.com/corryw3
In fall 2020, singer-songwriter Raven Platts, who records kaleidoscopic and introspective R&B as Raven Rae, released an ambitious visual album, Metamorphosis, that paired striking videos with her atmospheric music. The release follows in the footsteps of another effort released in 2019, says Green. “She did a project called Borderline, where there were certain song titles, like ‘Self Care,’ where she talked about the importance of mental health,” he says. “And her sound has a very old-school [vibe] — [she has] almost like a Billie Holiday kind of voice, but [has] contemporary subject matter and sound and production.” facebook.com/raven.platts