A QUICK OVERVIEW
From what I have learned, the Denver Gentlemen were the prototypical band of the scene, featuring Jefrey-Paul, David Eugene Edwards (DEE) and various other members of 16 Horsepower throughout their lifespan, as well as Slim Cessna. (Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any music on youtube of this era - there is some from Jeffrey-Paul's 2005 reformation though - and the album is impossibly out of print (although DEE wasn't in the band anymore by the time it was recorded)). The Denver Gentlemen had more polka in their sound then future bands in the genre would.
16 Horsepower was formed featuring many members of the Denver Gentlemen, and I think they were the most commercially successful band in the scene (don't quote me on that, but they at least did well enough to make music videos). Their lyrical content was based on the beliefs of DEE, which is basically a very fatalistic version of Christianity, and as such very dark in content as can be seen in this video:
|Originally posted by Black Soul Choir|
Every man is evil, yes, every man's a liar
Unashamed with a wicked tongue sings in the black soul choir
16 Horsepower would eventually dissolve due to disagreements in belief within the band. David Eugene Edwards would continue making music under the moniker Woven Hand (my favorite in the scene after Munly), who are actually included on Progarchives under the Prog Folk subgenre. The lyrical content is similar to that of 16 horsepower, but features more rock and less country compared to the prior band. The following video is from their latest album, which is the hardest rocking one to date...
Other members of the band would form Lilium, a band I am not quite so familiar with (I have listened to their album only a couple of times) but they went down a more folksy route than Woven Hand. The next video is the only one i could find of the band on youtube.
Going back to the Denver Gentlemen, Slim Cessna formed his own band afterwards, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, of which he has been the only constant. Jay Munly has been a member of the band for some time, and I am only familiar with a little of the material that has been released since Munly joined the band. Munly often acts as a foil to Slim in the songs, and in some cases he even gets to lead. The music, as of much in the genre, deals with Christianity, dysfunctional relationships, and other dark themes.
(the second song is a great example of the dark, intense sound these guys can do, but unfortunately it is not the best audio quality and the studio version is not to be found)
And that brings us to who is, in my mind, the star of the scene, Jay Munly, who has gained some notoriety on this website mostly for his three latest albums (Jimmy Carter Syndrome, Lee Lewis Harlots, Petr and the Wulf). Interestingly, his first three albums do not quite fit the sound of the scene as well, and all precede his time with Slim Cessna's Auto Club. His music is dark as the rest of the scene, although it is generally more story-oriented and deals less with Christianity.
(This song is an excellent, dark, atmospheric piece that features a guest appearance by DEE)
Of the three albums I listed above, they are actually from three separate projects. Munly & The Lee Lewis Harlots features three female singers and more strings than Jimmy Carter Syndrome.
Lastly, Petr and the Wulf (credited to Munly & The Lupercalians) is based on Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, and features more folk elements than Munly's other works.
One last band I have explored in the genre is Reverend Glasseye & His Wooden Legs (formed by Adam Glasseye, formely of Slim Cessna's Auto Club) (alternately just Reverend Glasseye), who incorporate cabaret elements into their sound.
There are other bands in the genre as well, such as Tarantella (whom I have not yet heard and cannot comment on as of yet), but all the ones I have listened to can be traced back in some way to The Denver Gentlemen, so it is interesting how this scene arose from a band whose two albums are basically impossible to find.