One of my favorite musicians here in NC is Durham's Ryan Gustafson, who put out a terrific album in 2009 known as the "Donkey" LP (there's a picture of a donkey on the cover). He's got an earthy, forlorn vocal delivery and an Americana guitar vibe. Mainstays in his live band include the excellent guitarist Carter Gaj, who is the frontman for the more pop-sounding Max Indian, and a gentleman whose name I don't know, but who sings wonderful harmonies that leave you thinking of Scott Danbom.
Here's a recording of them playing at Chapel Hill landmark Local 506. It's a little grainy, but the vocals and lap steel guitar will still have you wiping the corner of your eye. On the CD, this track has a beautiful violin overlay that makes it even sadder.
Website: Ryan Gustafson Myspace