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Breaking: Midlake

March 10, 2010 3:51 PM ET

Who: Pastoral rockers from Denton, Texas, who first broke through with their 2006 track "Roscoe," on which the group's classic-rock-loving frontman Tim Smith sang about life in the 1800s. "I don't do too well in the present," he says. "Not that old times were better, but I'm more romantic about the past."

Sounds Like: The band's latest disc, The Courage of Others, has a sound influenced by 1960s British acts like Fairport Convention and Pentangle, with Jethro Tull-style flutes and references to maidens and merchant ships.

Vital Stats:

• Smith was a John Coltrane devotee until he reluctantly picked up Radiohead's OK Computer while at the North Texas College of Music. "I didn't want to listen to it, because of the name," he says. "I thought, 'What's this, some kind of radio-pop music?' "

• Before Midlake embraced chiming guitars and meticulous harmonies, the group was a jazz-funk act. Smith ditched his sax when he joined up with the Texas group, which featured current bandmembers Eric Pulido and Eric Nichelson (guitar), McKenzie Smith (drums) and Paul Alexander (bass).

• Like fellow bearded strummers Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver, Midlake recall CSNY and Fleetwood Mac. "You want your music to be ask great as those acts," says Smith, "But I shouldn't compare my work with everything that's ever been done. I mean, you can only do so much before you die."

Get It Now: Watch the band's trailer for The Courage of Others up top.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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