Since their 2005 debut, San Diego power trio Earthless have been pushing stoner-rock to new extremes in cosmic exploration and rhythmic intensity——and mostly without the use of vocals. However, on their upcoming release, Black Heaven (out March 16), guitarist Isaiah Mitchell steps up to the mic on a full-time basis. To celebrate his graduation to proper frontman, we asked him to curate a playlist of inspirational voices.
Thin Lizzy, “Honesty is No Excuse”: Phil Lynott has one of my all-time favorite voices. His phrasing is wonderful. The longing in his voice…..
Andy Irving and Paul Brady, “Lough Erne Shore”: Paul Brady has one of the most unique voices I’ve ever heard. Absolutely beautiful. I wish I could sing like that.
Bad Brains, “Banned in D.C.”: H.R. is my favorite all-time punk vocalist. An incredible force of nature. Power.
Charley Patton, “High Water Everywhere – Part 1”: Patton also has one of the most unique voices I have ever heard. When I close my eyes and listen to his recordings, I see an old man with a few teeth. Gritty and gravelly. Not a cooler voice in the world. Such an old sound. I wish I could sing like him, too.
Freddie King, “Same Old Blues”: One of my all-time favorite vocalists and guitarists. The sound that comes out of him is one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. He sounds big because he is big. Belts it.
Traffic, “40,000 Headsman”: Steve Winwood is another all-time favorite. So much soul. There’s this brassy sound to his voice that I love——like Sam Cooke.
Sam Cooke, “Cupid”: One of my favorite songs of all time by one of my all-time favorite singers. Sam’s voice was one of the smoothest and velvetiest sounds to come out of a human.
Townes Van Zandt, “Rake”: His voice, phrasing, and lyrics are unmatched. How he can keep all that together and play guitar the way he does to accompany what he has to say, I still don’t know. Another great example of Townes’ mastery of voice and guitar is “Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold.”
Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”: Warren Zevon is pretty new to my life. A good buddy introduced me to him and now I’m hooked. Just a total bad-ass. The voice and lyrics fit together just right.
Muddy Waters, “Long Distance Call”: Muddy is one of my earliest heroes. Such an animated voice. One of the most imitated singers of all time.
Howlin’ Wolf, “Spoonful”: Wolf is as important to me as Muddy is. Big man with a bigger voice. He was the full package on stage, playing great slide guitar and blowing harmonica, backed up by one of the greatest voices of all time.
Fleetwood Mac, “Jumping at Shadows”: Peter Green is another one of my hands-down, all-time favorite voices. He bears it all.
Cream, “We’re Going Wrong”: Out of all the singers I’m into and try to imitate, I think I approach my vocals with a Jack Bruce filter. It’s not obvious, but I hear his voice while singing songs I’ve written. I don’t always go the Jack Bruce route, but I’m glad the path is there when I need it.
Stevie Wonder, “I Was Made to Love Her”: He gave it all. Pure joy. Arguably the greatest male voice of all time. It doesn’t need explaining.
Peter Tosh, “No Sympathy”: Solid as a rock. Such a bad-ass. Preaching.
The Band, “It Makes No Difference”: Rick Danko is up in my top five favorite vocalists. He sounds like he’s singing the last performance of his life and absolutely gives it everything he’s got and doesn’t hold back. Everyone on this list does that, but Danko hits me in a different way.
The Four Tops, “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”: Levi Stubbs, to me, has one of the defining voices of Motown. When the verse kicks in on “Reach Out,” the power that comes through the speakers floors me every time.
Sandy Denny, “Late November”: Beautiful and powerful all rolled into one. Music is the healer. You have to give in completely if you want it to heal you. She gave it all.
ZZ Top, “Just Got Paid”: One of my all-time favorite bands and guitar players. Billy Gibbons has a voice that doesn’t fit with the way he looks… at least in his early days. Great lyrical content. All hail the Reverend. The real deal.
Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, “City Slang”: Fred “Sonic” Smith has a voice I wish I had. Cool as hell. Deep. Another person whose sound is the epitome of cool. One of my all-time favorites.