Motor City Rides 

This year is shaping up to belong to Frontier Ruckus. The band is fresh off a buzz-worthy Bonnaroo performance and its sophomore album, is out soon on Ramseur Records, which took the Avett Brothers from cult faves to heroes. Frontier Ruckus' success is the classic yarn of inherent skill, hard work and luck. 

In 2008, they released their debut, ,on the swingin' Ann Arbor label Quite Scientific, then toured — and busked — their asses off. 

The members climbed into a 1998 Ford Club Wagon — it once belonged to labelmates Canada — and proceeded to log enough mileage to circumnavigate the globe twice, and then some. The band toured Europe a few times. 

Not content to simply perform hundreds of shows a year, FR frequently busks in a town before their club shows — which is a brilliant way to sell CDs, gather up coin and lure fresh faces to the bigger show. 

Vocalist Matthew Milia says, "Especially if we're in a town we've never been in, and we're afraid no one is going to be at the show, we'll play in the street, and 10 to 20 people will come to the show from that." 

FR's sound comes off like Will Oldham sitting in on Neil Young's On the Beach; it's beautifully loose, bittersweet and acoustic. When you pair singer-guitarist Matthew Milia's haunted vocals and ace songwriting with multi-instrumentalist Zachary Nichols' spooky saw accompaniments and David Jones' old-timey banjo, the results are both antiquated and completely in the moment.

The band's van is lovingly christened Desperauto, a tongue-in-cheek wink to the Eagles album and the frequently less-than-glam aspects of road life. 

"We were actively trying to come up with a name for the van, and someone jokingly put on the Eagles," Jones says. "Then someone suggested Desperauto. Now sometimes we call her Dessie, like when she's struggling to make it up a hill."

Frontier Ruckus' new album  will hit nationally July 20. Get a free copy of the album if you go see them at their record release on Friday, July 17, at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. For more info, see frontierruckus.com.

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More by Doug Coombe

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