Archives for category: Birmngham Alabama

Birmingham’s \\GT// on new album and the importance of closed-up Bottletree

Photo Courtesy - \\GT// and Communicating Vessels

Photo Courtesy – \\GT// and Communicating Vessels

Birmingham, Alabama’s \\GT// is part of a Birmingham well rounded scene tradition that has produced everything from rockers Carnival Season, Brother Cane to a burgeoning Indie scene that began almost ten years ago that included everything from Hard Rocking Universal Joint and beitthemeans to more singer/songwriter oriented material from Jesse Payne and Kendra Sutton.

In fact, the scene has been diversified enough to include various hip hop acts and Punk Reggae Scenesters with a sophisticated College political mindset, The Agency.

Out of all these factions have come nationally known College Radio Americana in the form of Wild Sweet Orange and The Great Book of John. The other angle that has taken off is related to a re-look at Muscle Shoals and the Fame Studio years with St. Paul & The Broken Bones and the unpeggable Alabama Shakes.

Birmingham has managed to develop one of the best regional Indie Music Festivals in the Country with Secret Stages while local label Communicating Vessels is growing and nationwide.

\\GT// developed out of this eclectic scene when two co-workers, Scotty Lee, Byron Sonnier at now defunct venue The Bottletree got together to jam on a modern twist of Alabama gothic tale hard edge grooves. Working with established area drummer Mark Beasley, the Power Trio brings out the loud Birmingham underground belly of the Magic City.

Their newest release, Beats Misplaced, currently only available in Europe on Rough Trade will be released later this year on Communicating Vessels. In the meantime, \\GT// plan to hit every club they can along the eastern half of the United States as well as the Midwest.

The Nashville Bridge caught up with the band a few days prior to their show in Nashville at The Stone Fox on August 15th.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: Scotty, you have some great label support [Communicating Vessels] and some gigs coming up.

Scotty Lee – \\GT//: Yeah we do. Let’s see, we have another small run coming up from the 15th to the 23rd so far. We are doing, obviously, The Stone Fox. We have been going through St. Louis and Lexington and starting to do that Midwest kind of thing.

TNB: How was Secret Stages [Birmingham Indie Music Festival] this year?

Scotty: Secret Stages was great! We got in the second day. We were on the road but it was really awesome and everybody that came to the festival was saying great things about it all weekend. So, yeah it was really good.

TNB: I could tell you one thing. I think what you’re doing would work in Nashville now. I wouldn’t have said the same thing seven years ago. Things have really changed.

Scotty: Yeah.

TNB: Are you guys in tune with what is going on in Music City?

Scotty: They might be more than me. The only thing that I know is like my buddies The Banditos is the only Nashville connection that I have.

TNB: Nashville is becoming more diversified with Jack White, The Black Keys and locals that grew up here like Jeff The Brotherhood.

Scotty: Oh yeah. Jeff The Brotherhood. I forgot about them. I forgot they are from Nashville.

TNB: Did you record the new full length album in Birmingham?

gt-beatsmisplaced-cover-1000-570x570Scotty: The full length we’ve got now we recorded over here at CommVess [Communicating Vessels] in their studio. We worked with Lynn Bridges and Taylor Hollingsworth [Conor Oberst, The Spider Eaters, The Puffs, Dead Fingers, Pawn & Gun] and we had a lot of friends play on it and stuff as far as background vocals and all that kind of stuff.

TNB: So, Taylor played on it a little bit?

Scotty: Yeah, he played a couple of lead parts, did some background vocals and he produced a little bit of it as well.

TNB: What’s the scene like in Birmingham nowadays? Is it still centered around The Nick? I know that The Bottletree shut down, right?

Scotty: Yeah, The Bottletree is gone. Saturn opened up and Birmingham is always going to be like it has been. All the fans that are out now are really awesome. I have a lot of friends that are still doing their thing which is great.

TNB: Are you bringing any bands with you to The Stone Fox or are you guys playing with some local bands?

Scotty: Yeah, we’re just playing with people that are from there, I guess. We are not bringing anybody with us on these runs.

TNB: What is the current goal for \\GT//?

Scotty: I just want to tour and give people a chance to hear us. That’s all I want to do.

TNB: A while back there was a demand for stuff over in Europe from Alabama [Drive-By Truckers]. I know that Taylor Hollingsworth has been over to England. Do you see any interest overseas?

Scotty: Well, our album was released over in Germany and the UK with Rough Trade so we will find out.

TNB: When will the album be out on Communicating Vessels stateside?

Scotty: It’s being released here in about September or October. Not really sure. There is no certain date right now.

TNB: Hey Byron.

Byron Sonnier – \\GT// : Hello.

TNB: How did you end up working with Scotty? Were you with him in a different band or is this kind of a new thing for you?

Byron: We were actually in a different band that was kind of a psychedelic stoner rock band. I played guitar and sang. Scotty played lead guitar. It didn’t last very long but, yeah, so we played together before.

TNB: Did \\GT//come out of a jam or did Scotty bring something to the table and say, “Hey let’s try this out?”

Byron: We both worked at Bottletree at the same time. Scotty was getting this band together and asked me if I wanted to play. I had never played bass before but I was like I’ll try and it just kind of went from there.

TNB: How long did you guys work for Bottletree?

Byron: Scotty had worked there on and off since the beginning, I worked there for a little over five years.

TNB: I moved out of Birmingham in 2008 and moved to Nashville. I used to play a lot at The Nick. I didn’t play The Bottletree but I saw some great shows [Dead Confederate, Taylor Hollingsworth, The Donnas] back then.

Byron: It was awesome! I mean The Bottletree is responsible for everything that’s happened here, I think definitely in regards to the music scene. I mean it [music scene] was there before but I think that national attention came out of that one way or another.

TNB: I was going to say that Communicating Vessels kind of came together before The Bottletree shut down, right?

Byron: Oh, yeah, well before that, for sure.

TNB: Some of the early label bands like The Great Book of John, I guess, were established playing out of The Bottletree?

GT-logo-hi-res-600-380x380Byron: Right! Alabama Shakes played open mic night only they were just called The Shakes then. St. Paul [& The Broken Bones], I mean all those bands played through here several times.

TNB: Is there something like The Bottletree now? One thing I remember is that they had had some great stuff like hummus and vegetarian food.

Byron: Now? No, I mean there is the new Saturn. It’s booked by BOWERY. It’s definitely got its own kind of thing going. It’s different. It’s more of a concert venue then a club. So, there really is not anything close to that right now. It’s definitely a void.

TNB: I thought it was a cool thing because like you could go there and eat healthy if you didn’t feel like drinking or anything you know.

Byron: Right.

Mark Beasley – \\GT//: Hey Brad it’s Mark.

TNB: Hey Mark how are you doin’? I remember seeing you play with a lot of people before I moved from Birmingham in 2008. You were playing with Kendra last thing I remember. I used to play in a band myself.

Mark: Which band were you in?

TNB: I played with Danny Everitt [Bass], the sound guy over at The Nick and Daniel Long [The Agency, Furthermore, Jesse Payne etc.]was the drummer. He has been playing with…

Mark: Jesse Payne, yeah.

TNB: Daniel has been playing with a lot of people. Our lead singer name was Peter Davenport. We were called various names over a few years and the last year we went by Furthermore. I used to see you to play with a lot of people. I remember running into you a lot of times.

Mark: Yeah, I’ve played drums in quite a few bands here and there. Some of them short lived and some of them longer.

TNB: Are you gigging full time or are you working as well?

Mark: I think all of us have jobs. There was a time I was playing in three or four bands at the same time but now those bands have kind of folded up and become inactive and now it’s just been playing with \\GT// and going on tour which is taking up most of my time at least in terms of my time playing music.

TNB: I was going to say it’s probably a good band to be in because you’ve got solid label support. They are doing stuff for you and you’ve got some decent videos out as well as a great Alabama regional vibe t your groove.

Mark: I think some of the success from the Alabama bands, at least, is kind of what you would expect Alabama to sound like. There are other bands like us and Dirty Lungs on this label that don’t necessarily, you know, we really are just a rock band with some weird perverted blues licks thrown in there. It’s not typical of what you would think of it being Southern music.

TNB: I think it fits with fans of Alabama music that know about the past ten years and bands such as The Immortal Lee County Killers, Cordova, Model Citizen or Beitthemeans, .

Mark: We played a show with those guys [Beitthemeans] in Mobile [Alabama].

TNB: It’s kind of cool to see that at first Communicating Vessels was more concentrating on almost like new Americana and now they are branching out and tapping into some other scenes. Is that how you feel?

\\GT// - photo_John Purvis

\\GT// – photo_John Purvis

Mark: I think that is just a good business model if you talk about a record label. I know Epitaph had its success having a bunch of the same kind of bands on their label but really to be successful you have to have artists of all different types to diversify your sound. So, Communicating Vessels certainly has a couple of hip hop acts. They have what you would traditionally think of as Americana acts as well as straight ahead Rock and Roll bands too.

TNB: Good luck with the new project! I’ll let you guys go.

  • Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN
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Dead Fingers 2014 Interview

Dead Fingers, photo Courtesy Pipe and Gun

Dead Fingers, photo Courtesy Pipe and Gun

Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor better known as Birmingham, Alabama’s Dead Fingers took a few minutes to reflect on their adventures that took about two years and resulted in their sophomore release Big Black Dog on Birmingham’s Communicating Vessels .

Taylor and Kate took a much needed break when they became first time parents and found themselves with new material at a crossroads in the music business that is affecting even smaller regional labels.

After much reflection and at a point where they felt like they were ready to get out on the road, they ended up working with Birmingham, Alabama’s Communicating Vessels which has had national success with The Great Book Of John as well as regional favorites like The Grenadines.

The album was recorded in Mississippi with Bruce Watson [Fat Possum/ Big Legal Mess] long before the release date and label decisions were made and finally released with Bruce’s blessing right in Taylor and Kate’s own backyard.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: I have been listening to this album and it seems to be more organized then the first release in the sense that it is not as random as the other album. Does that make sense?

Taylor Hollingsworth / Dead Fingers: Yeah, I could see that for sure, yeah. We tried to have a direction, you know, in the recording. We tried to have, like a cohesive sound.

TNB: There are more concentration on the harmonies and also more of a focus on the country sound.

TH: I decided I am just a country musician you know. I’m like psychedelic country.

TNB: It works. I liked how you put “Big Black Dog” on the front end because that was kind of like the most off-beat and different from the rest. It looks like the first push is with “Free Tonight.”

TH: Yeah.

TNB: You’ve been around for at least a decade now. As a solo artist, you were with Brash Music out of Georgia. You worked with Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band . You’ve been with Big Legal Mess / Fat Possum out of Mississippi and now you are working with Communicating Vessels out of Birmingham. I guess it makes it a little bit easier to work with distribution and all of that.

TH: Not necessarily on the distribution, but it makes it easier for like, I don’t know, I thought it was making it easier until the last couple of days. No, I’m just kidding, I mean , it’s like easier when we can go to the office and actually discuss things face to face rather than by e-mail or just a phone call. I can bug them more frequently and make sure things are like getting done, I guess.

TNB: Communicating Vessels has pretty decent distribution. I remember seeing The Great Book of John and some of their other releases here in Nashville. They also concentrate on doing some vinyl, don’t they?

TH: Yeah, they are definitely doing vinyl. They are really cool people that do the label. I have really been excited about doing it. I hope that they can survive in this day and age in the music business. Obviously, it’s like a f*****n’ s**t show out there.

TNB: It’s weird. Jack White made an album that had three speeds on it to create more interest and it ended up being number 1 on Billboard. Lazaretto sold like 40,000 copies the first week. But, it’s like a piece of art.

TH: Well, he’s on a whole ‘nother plane.

TNB: When you guys tour are you going out with any other Alabama bands or just going out by yourselves?

Dead Fingers, Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor, photo courtesy Jonathan Purvis

Dead Fingers, Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor, photo courtesy Jonathan Purvis

TH: We just have this one tour booked as of right now and that’s just us by ourselves with local support in all the cities. I think that is usually good, you know, because you get local bands that help you with the draw.

TNB: Are you doing recording pretty much the way you used to, like, are you pretty much taking control of your work?

TH: This new album we did over at the Fat Possum studio at the same place as we did the first Dead Fingers album with Bruce Watson. We both kind of, you know, produced it like I come up with a lot of ideas of arrangement type stuff and instrumentation. Like adding certain things to make it sound a certain way, but I really don’t have anything to do with, like, what mic we are going to use or what stuff like that. Bruce is on top of that because I’ll just grab any kind of mic there is and just put’em on shit to record, but he knows which mic to use and to do it the proper way.

TNB: Well, he’s worked on a lot of stuff. My favorite Black Keys album was Chulahoma, the Junior Kimbrough stuff. That was awesome.

TH: Yeah man, Bruce has got his name on some cool records.

TNB: Ok, so you did it over there, was it originally going to be on his label, or?

TH: Yeah. The music business is eating them alive like he is losing money on a lot of records. He lost money on our first record. So, he was kind of thinking we would just release this record just digitally then I said there is a Birmingham label. I told him about Communicating Vessels. I was like, what if we got them to do the vinyl and you do the digital, but it kind of got to be like nobody is going to want to spend all this money on vinyl and not have the digital release so, we just decided to go with Communicating Vessels. We thought about it and they kind of offered us to do the vinyl and offered to help us with some of the core stuff. We also liked the idea of them just being down the street from us. I mean they are literally like a two minute drive so, we talked to Bruce and he was totally cool with the whole thing. I mean he was like I would love to say I could give you enough money to do all that but he just can’t.

TNB: It is kind of weird how Birmingham had evolved into where there were a lot of great bands that came out at a certain period of time. Like beitthemeans, Model Citizen, Universal Joint and your band The Spider Eaters. I can think of at least a dozen bands; Through The Sparks has made it through that whole thing. But, now Birmingham has its own label and other things going on so they can promote their own scene, which is kind of cool.

TH: Yes, it’s really cool, you know, I hope that they can expand beyond Birmingham. They certainly are trying real hard. They are goin’ through the motions. They are living and learning. They are hiring all kinds of publicists and radio people and I mean they are doing it.

TNB: Are they trying to get over to England?

TH: Yeah. They are actually hiring print over in England.

TNB: I was thinking, how say like The Drive By Truckers broke over there as well as Kings of Leon.

TH: Yeah, we went to Europe last year. On our last record, we had a European label as well as the Stateside label and we did a European tour which went over really well for us on our level. But, the label we were on, over there, went under. They lost their ass on every one of their records and now we don’t have a label over there. Labels are just going under right and left.

TNB: Jack White’s Third Man Records can sell a lot of his own records but he has recorded a lot of other people that don’t do much like even the Neil Young record he did is way down on the charts so it’s maybe selling like a couple of thousand.

TH: Bruce just told me they released the Iggy & The Stooges new album and didn’t even sell 10,000 copies. Iggy & the f*****g Stooges! That is insane and they spent a fortune on that record.

TNB: I know Infinity Cat put their label right behind the United Record Pressing plant here in town.

TH: Yeah, that is where we pressed our last record.

TNB: They have got things going on where they do limited runs on everything and they keep changing it up whether it is the type of vinyl or the sleeve. They change it up every tour because they have core buyers. They have guys that will buy three different versions of the same record to just get the different covers of a Jeff The Brotherhood release.

TH: Well the truth is the reason we are not on Bruce’s label is what really happened on the business end and that his distribution was losing so much money on all these small records that weren’t selling enough numbers and they were getting shipped back from stores. They had to change their way, so their new approach in order to distribute your record is to have you buy a package plan and it was four grand for just the cheapest package. That was just to get your record into the store and that added four grand to our cost which used to not be a cost at all. They made money per record off a percentage but now they don’t take a percentage they charge a flat fee because those records weren’t even selling enough for them to make a percentage. You know what I mean? Not making anything, losing money.

TNB: It’s kind of the trend right now that they are putting everything back on the artist. I was talking to Ryan Hurtgen [former Nashvillian in Rene Breton]of Perfect Beings and he said out there in California, the pluggers are charging the bands and you don’t know if they are out plugging your music or not. They are trying to suck the musicians dry…Hey Kate, are you there?

Kate Taylor / Dead Fingers: I’m here.

TNB: You kind of have your own thing, but it fits more with Folk Alliance or the Americana Music Festival here in Nashville for promoting, you know what I mean? I didn’t know if you were going to try to get into some of those things. The Americana Music Festival here in town is huge. People are flying in from all over the world.

TH: Is that where I played with The Dexateens last year?

TNB: You probably did. I know the Dexateens are pretty solid. I didn’t go last year.

TH: Yeah. I would love to do that.

TNB: Is the new album stuff you worked on a while back or is at all new?

TH: I don’t think we had it written during the last album but it is now like two years old though. I mean, most of the songs I wrote before our daughter was born. Kate, your songs are probably before she was born too?

Dead Fingers, photo courtesy Jonathan Purvis

Dead Fingers, photo courtesy Jonathan Purvis

Kate: Yeah, we were probably working on that album just as we just finished the tour of the first album. We had just come out from there and I was pregnant. So, when we finished the tour we just went straight back into the studio. Knowing you’re pregnant you are anticipating the lull. I mean, we obviously had to take a little time off from touring and not be able to work as much. So, even when we were on tour we went back and forth to Mississippi every other weekend while I was still pregnant and then we finished it. I think Taylor ended up going one or maybe two times after she was born. I mean she was just teeny tiny like three weeks old or something. We went back a couple of times to finish everything up. But, then there was the switching of labels and all that kind of stuff and that ended up taking much longer than we had anticipated.

TNB: So you are like ready to record again, probably?

TH: Yeah, we haven’t written any songs.

Kate: Yeah, we had the baby and stuff.

TH: I was going through my notebook last night and I realized I probably have an albums worth of stuff written. Old songs from back then.

Kate: We are just getting to the point where we can record again. You know, our daughter is getting to be not quite two actually, she will be in November. Just like little things, you know, even right now. She is usually not a night owl. We don’t have to wait until forever and ever, at bedtime she goes to bed.

Taylor: That just now started.

TNB: Life kind of changes when you got kids, that’s for sure.

Kate: So, we are just getting to a point where we can get the things out in front and start working again. Like at first, we were not writing anymore and not playing anymore.

TH: I’m about ready to start playing full time, just like locally you know.

TNB: What are you doing locally nowadays? Are doing like acoustic gigs somewhere? Or kicking it with a band?

TH: I have a cover band that I am playing with and stuff and then I work. I’ll do some acoustic gigs like, I do every second Friday at Parkside Cafe in the back bar up there. It’s like the cool bar now in Birmingham. All of our friends are hanging there. Lauren, from The Grenadines, tends bar at Parkside. It’s a bunch of cool folks. I think I am going to put together kind of like my own songs but then a bunch of country songs, cover songs that I can just play at bars to make a living. Make enough to get by without working the road. That is what I hope for.

TNB: Sounds good. It is a challenge. It’s kind of weird because it’s like when you released Tragic City, you were right on the edge of when the whole music business was goin’ down. I remember Tower Records was getting behind that album and then they went bankrupt.

TH: Yeah, they had a lot at Tower Records and like I remember it was like in Best Buy and shit like that. It was really getting pushed out there, but it was all right there at the end. I didn’t have a business minded head on my shoulder whatsoever anyway.

TNB: You were pushing everything at 100%.

TH: I just didn’t have the team behind me.

TNB: I definitely promote Birmingham when I get the chance.

TH: Yeah, I know you do.

TNB: Dude, good to hear that you guys are still pressing on. I was going to tell you that one of the highlights for me in Birmingham, probably 2006. You were playing with the Spider Eaters and Matt Patton from Model Citizen…

TH: Oh yeah Matt.

TNB: Yeah, he got up on stage and you guys did Ramones’ “Commando.” That was cool. It was good talking to you. Wish you the best man.

Taylor: Alright man, always good to talk to you.

Kate: Thank you so much.

Dead Fingers, photo courtesy Pipe and Gun

Dead Fingers, photo courtesy Pipe and Gun

–          Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridgeathotmaildotcom

 

The Dirty Streets – Secret Stages 2012 – Rogue Tavern

Secret Stages 2012 on May 11th & 12th, took over where the first Birmingham Indie Festival left off last year, with plenty of homegrown SXSW style Buzz, this time around with a fully fledged website instead of a hard to find blog.

Black Tusk – Secret Stages 2012 – Das Haus

From Nashville’s Natural Child to Memphis’ River City Tanlines to Chattanooga’s own take on the MGMT formula, Machines Are People Too, SS 2012 had everything from vintage postcard sounds of Frank Fairfield to the Motorhead meats Black Sabbath at a Southern Bar B Que sounds of Black Tusk, most groups were part of the Southeast circuit with all points in between, with several Artists travelling from far reaches of the kingdom.

Break it down

Even a coffee house was throwing down Rappers, DJ’s and Breakdancers next door to Das Haus as an add plus to the list of venues.

Hail The Titans – Das Haus, Photo- Thomas Diasio

Speaking of Das Haus, with the metal machine noise Lou Reed in a Sonic Youth Blender rock of Hail The Titans, Death Surf Punk of Kill Baby Killand the aforementioned Black Tusk taking care of business with an alpine view backdrop and the dense smell of Brats, Kraut and German Beer lingering in all four corners, this was the edge of the Abyss, where as some of the safer acts played at Rogue Tavern.

Machines Are People Too – Rogue / Photo – Thomas Diasio

Rogue, the biggest club of all featured Machines Are People Too getting everybody on their feet dancing then a few minutes later, The Dirty Streets, were throwing down Social Distortion meets Government Mule.

Baby Baby @ Easy Street

There was something for everybody and all ages. Baby Baby, with double the drumming pleasure, played at all ages Easy Street cranking out loud post punk. This wasn’t a bar, just a big empty hall, loud music and a table for buying Cd’s and other swag.

Third Man Rolling Records Store @ Secret Stages 2012

The second day had to contend with constant soft rain that left the vendors and the Third Man Rolling Record Store out in the cold, whereas last year, the main outdoor stage was the place to congregate, this year, everybody was scurrying for indoor digs with a few dancing in the rain at the foot of the main stage listening to blues and jazz.

Lydia Loveless @ Metro / photo- Thomas Diasio

Metro kind of became the Americana beacon with Bloodshot Records’ Lydia Loveless  and Taylor Hollingsworth’s new duo with newlywed wife, Kate Taylor, playing songs off their southern roots Fat Possum Records, Deadfingersrelease.

Deadfingers @ Metro

The greatest benefit was this was truly a pub crawl in the Loft District, which has seen a lot of changes over the last 5-10 years. It covered four square blocks where no taxis were needed to get around.  

Machine Are People Too @ Rogue / photo – Thomas Diasio

Chuck Leishman, who originally had the idea for the pub crawl, who called together the roundtable that developed Secret Stages stated, “We wanted to have a festival that all these bands that play the circuit could have a platform, a place to get their music heard in one weekend. It would be great if every regional area had a festival like this.”

Ben Lamb w/ Lydia Loveless @ Metro / photo – Thomas Diasio

This truly was what SXSW felt like maybe twenty years ago. There were some local corporate and media support and even a few bands on some Indie labels, but, this was a place where many bands were able to be heard by a diverse crowd.

Hail The Titans @ Das Haus / Photo – Thomas Diasio

Birmingham has seen some success over the last few years, with bands like The Great Book of John and Wild Sweet Orange.  

Black Tusk @ Das Haus

It would have been anybody’s guess that Birmingham would host the best Indie Festival in the Southeast with over 100 bands and comedians during two days in May.

Vintage Gibson backline @ Metro

Birmingham is just about the same distance between Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Mississippi and Northern Florida making it an easy 2-4 hour trip from just about anywhere in the region.

The number of venues has more than doubled in Birmingham in the last ten years.

A little secret Elvis imagery (Taking Care Of Black Tusk) @ Das Haus

The time was right, the place right and the vibe was right. Shine a light on Birmingham.  

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Hayes Carll Americana Fest 2011 Mercy Lounge

After the Americana Music Association Carnival pulled out of Nashville, the big question is, what does Americana sound like? A friend of mine said that it would have at least one acoustic instrument in the mix, to give it that authentic roots thing. Jim Lauderdale as he hosted the Americana Awards did a spoof show tune, “That’s Americana!” It was hilarious and it was great because Americana is not a particular sound.

Americana is one of the strangest music references ever, at least when the word “grunge” came along, it meant one of the bands that came out of Seattle at a certain time. Americana is like a radio format for everything that doesn’t fit the current formats, yet, it is getting some of their artists like Mumford and Sons into the mainstream. Not to mention Will Hoge.

A mention was made by one of the show reviewers in Nashville Scene that they were glad that the “old farts in flannel shirts singing post Grateful Dead stuff” were gone and they could have the Exit/In back.

I get the feeling that a lot of people are stumbling onto Americana artists and not even knowing it, in Rolling Stone or when their friend says “listen to this” and pulls up something on their IPod by The Civil Wars or The Avett Brothers.

If you haven’t heard about these artists in the last year, then you live in a bubble. Americana is not only an award at the Grammys now, but, a launch pad, much like Indie format radio, where artists can get their “legs” as they mingle with legends like Gregg Allman and Robert Plant who are flying the banner.

One thing that Americana is not is electronic. Americana may have some roots in any American genre such as Blues, Soul, Gospel, Country, Folk and on and on, but it is definitely not about Kraftwerk or the modern Pop that is all made up on an Apple computer.

Blind Boys of Alabama Americana Fest 2011 Cannery Ballroom

Americana is as much about Red Dirt singer/songwriters like Hayes Carll as it is the roots gospel of The Blind Boys of Alabama.

Blind Boys of Alabama, Alabama Music Tribute at Cannery opening night

I guess if you are looking for a root to Americana you would probably have to go back twenty years in Nashville when about sixty California transplants started gathering to Nashville. Some of them became mainstream songwriters like Jeffrey Steele or Darrell Scott (most recently, Robert Plant & The Band of Joy). The one thing that did happen is they shook up the system.

Kenny Vaughan Americana Fest 2011 Mercy Lounge

Back in those days, Rosie Flores and Lucinda Williams would hang out all night, shutting down two or three bars only to meet up with Billy Block for breakfast.  A good chunk of these people bucked the Country music machine at the time or made some changes to it. They stayed true to themselves and this whole Americana thing has kind of caught up with them and now they are riding a jetstream of new found respect and popularity.

People like Jim Lauderdale who can go from playing straight up bluegrass to roots country to writing Robbie Robertson style music with a Grateful Dead lyricist represent the diversity of what is currently happening. It’s like the alternate universe of “the music business as usual” with a handmade vibe.

Most of what Bob Dylan does nowadays such as Modern Times could be classified Americana.  Many of the Americana Artists really jump from box to box, especially Mumford & Sons and Justin Townes Earle, who have as much Indie respect as they do Americana clout.

Kenny Vaughan packed it in then packed it back up at Mercy

The most interesting thing is that the genre has strong roots outside of the U.S. in places like Australia and Europe. Many of the artists make more money over there when they tour. This is nothing new, we as Americans many times pass on what is really cool about our culture and opt in for the corporate sell, “the spin.”

Americana is mainly artist and fan driven; it is really Indie at its core. If you like the Muscle Shoals era Dan Penn written songs alongside The Avett Brothers, more power to you. It really is the old saying, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

Robert Plant, Entertainer of the Year, The Ryman acceptance speach

You don’t have to buy into acoustic singer/songwriters or flannel shirts and old farts to find something there for yourself. Chances are you are listening to some Americana format music without realizing it. If you’re not sure where to start then it might as well be Buddy Miller, Robert Plant said he heard Buddy the first time when he toured with Emmylou Harris a few years ago and he seemed to embody everything American music, blues, gospel, rock, you name it. Robert said that Buddy will always be a part of whatever he does in the future. Emmylou Harris, at this year’s awards at The Ryman, said, they should call the Americana Award “The Buddy” because he has won so many of them.

By the way, a note to the Nashville Scene writer, when you refer to a group of music fans as old farts, just realize that you are probably being referred to as an old fart by somebody, it could be an 11 year old on a skateboard listening to some punk band out of California and thinking the same about you.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

 

Jimi Hendrix in Nashville

Word hit the street over the last two weeks like a brush fire in New Mexico: Rolling Stone wrote in print and on the net, Nashville has the best music scene in the country. I haven’t even read it yet because it is in the subscriber content on the web, but, I believe it to be true.

What was the turning point? The Kings of Leon? I don’t really think so.  The Kings of Leon had to go over to England to become big  in the U.S., kind of like Jimi Hendrix, in fact Jimi was gigging up on Jefferson Street with Billy Cox  and The King Kasuals for just a little scratch and room and board just a couple of years before he went to the U.K.

Paramore? Well, giving a little credit to a younger scene was a good thing when they were signed to Fueled by Ramen (sort of) yet there is no scene of bands trying to sound like Paramore around Nashville so it is its own thing.

Just a couple of years ago, Nashville was licking its wounds when Be Your Own Pet and The Pink Spiders, especially The Pink Spiders who went in with guns loaded and a Ric Okasek Produced album and an Artist Relations war chest were unable to break big.

Was it when Jack White moved Third Man Records down to Nashville, that is definitely a key piece to being Rolling Stone cool, with new 45’s by regionals being released almost on a Sam Phillip’s Sun Records schedule along with concert events that are showstoppers like the Record Store Day plus one Jerry Lee Lewis concert featuring Steve Cropper and Jim Keltner.

Okay, Jack White has given it the one two punch by introducing past icons to new generations  like Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose Grammy award winning album with Loretta standing in front of the East Nashville house where it was recorded.  How about when Porter Wagoner opened for The White Stripes at Madison Square Garden?  Who would have known that Porter’s final call would be an outstanding album, The Wagonmaster and a gig opening for The White Stripes?

Maybe, that was key in making sure that real icons are represented like Wanda Jackson’s great new album on Third Man Records. Jack is definitely not just looking behind but is really tuned into the ether. I was excited to see Dan Sartain, a part of the same Birmingham scene I was in for a number of years cut some vinyl on Third Man Records. Dan opened up for The White Stripes on several dates a few years ago and my friend Emanuel Elinas who made some guitar pedals for me down at Highland Music in Birmingham talked about playing Bass with Dan Sartain and going bowling with Jack and his Mom. How cool is that?

In fact, when I saw the band on the flip side of the Dan Sartain 45 and Matt Patton was there, I was really happy about what was happening. Matt and a few others had put out some of the best Indie music in Birmingham that I have ever heard. Matt had this band called Model Citizen and their CD, The Inner Fool, produced by Tim Boykin (The Lolas, The Shame Idols, Carnival Season) on Bent Rail Foundation is one of my all time favorites. Matt is getting recognition with Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s The Dexateens now.

I tell you what; let’s get down to ground zero. When we talk about Todd Snider and the East Nashville scene we are getting close, but, let’s get down to one album and one artist.  Okay, I am going to say the transition came when Nashville got behind one of its own in 2008. When Justin Townes Earle got signed to Bloodshot Records and released The Good Life both weekly music papers got behind with big in depth articles about how Justin got to that point. The Good Life is a classic album out of left field but it really represented what Nashville was known for, good songwriting, a little rock and roll, a little country with a nod to the past and to the future of Americana.

At that time, you could hang with Justin over at The Basement, but with extensive touring and a prolific three years, Justin is well established and still with indie cred enough where I can still turn people onto his music as something new.

Justin was recognized at The Americana Music Awards in Nashville in 2009 the year before Rolling Stone called the Americana Music Festival the coolest festival in the U.S. In fact 2010 would be the no holds barred year when Warner Brothers would finally release American Bang’s CD. Robert Plant would record Band of Joy in East Nashville with an Americana  A-List including Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott and be the surprise guest at The Americana Music Awards.

The 2010 Americana Music Festival was a real eye opener when you had The Long Players, Bobby Keyes, Dan Baird and a laundry list doing Exile on Main Street at The Cannery Ballroom, Hayes Carll at The Basement, with people coming from Australia just to see him play and a festival closer with Todd Snider and an all-star band featuring Don Was on Bass, with a grin and looking somewhat like Slash’s older brother.

Don Was got in the game this year when he produced Lucinda Williams (a Nashville alumnus) new Cd, Blessed. Did it start at The Americana Music Festival with an exchange of phone numbers backstage at The Rhyman? Only they know for sure, but Nashville is becoming a ground zero magnet for much more than Popular Country Music Radio songs and Christian Music.

There had to be a change. The music business had changed and Nashville has changed along with that. Instead of twenty major labels in town, there are now five. The rest are Indie Country, Rock, whatever.

Coming to Nashville to be a hit songwriter may be a goal for a lot of people, but, getting a staff writing gig is becoming really difficult and less lucrative. Back in 2007-2008, we talked about how a songwriter with good songs getting signed to a publisher with maybe a 25-35k draw now going for 18-24k and the need for a day job for many.  Also, one of the larger publishers had in the past as many as 135 staff writers and was then down to Thirty five.

I know for a fact things are much worse for that dream with less staff writers, less money and less records being sold. The dream is still there, but, now you need to get lucky and find a new face with a great voice and the potential to get signed and start co-writing before some money starts flowing.

In early 2008, I could go to The Commodore Grill and see an endless supply of new songwriting talent for the Country Music Industry, but, with less staff gigs and the economy in the tank, less people are rolling into Nashville with an acoustic guitar and lyrics in the guitar case. In fact, it really is a trickle compared to just three years ago. Also, many of the writers that are coming into town have Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson chops and are not really what the Country Music Industry is looking for.

On the other hand, the Indie Rock and Americana scenes are ripe for development.  Vinyl is making a comeback with this crowd and United Record Pressing is right here where it always was. Colored vinyl, short runs, whatever you need with local labels like Third Man Records and Nashville’s Dead Records, United Pressing is back to increasing production and essentially back in the game.

The song publishing and royalty distribution infrastructure is realigning in Nashville with changes in staff announced publicly last year at ASCAP and I am sure accommodations are coming with a paradigm shift to handle multiple styles now in the pipeline.

Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music is probably the most famous record store in the country now, maybe second to Amoeba’s out on the West Coast. It’s not enough that Indie bands make in-store appearances. Metallica made a little short announced gig for fans at The Basement below Grimey’s in 2008 before their Bonnaroo appearance and released the whole experience as Live at Grimey’s worldwide in 2010. Now all the gloves are off.

If you are a music lover, archivist, etc. in a world with disappearing Record stores, Nashville not only has Grimey’s, but  also, Phonoluxe Records, The Great Escape, The Groove and plenty of other outlets for local as well as rare Cd’s and vinyl.

Look what is going on at Thirty Tigers Indie Distribution and their great success over the last couple of years.

Belmont University is turning out Music and Music Business degrees every year and a lot of students want to stay here and not necessarily go into the Country Music Machine. They have their own ideas from the scenes they came from whether it was in California or New York.

Bands like The Black Keys and The Deadstring Brothers are migrating here.  Even though Music Row still has a big chunk of the day to day business great records are being made in East Nashville, Blackbird Studio and Buddy Miller’s living room.

With the advent of a studio in a gig bag, Indie artists can make records anywhere and with cheap housing and a plethora of like minded musicians gathering in what really is now becoming truly Music City it only makes sense to live and work here, especially when gas is going for near $5 a gallon. Why not be close to all the blessings that come with a great music talent smorgasbord.

Speaking of food, you don’t want to leave Austin because of Texas Barbecue? Okay at least try Jack’s and Rooster’s Texas Style BBQ and Steak House on 12th. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You want California style Mexican Food? Go to Oscar’s Taco Shop on Nolensville and in Franklin. Thai? Thai Star. Vietnamese? Far East Nashville. Indian? Tamarind. New York Style Italian? Are you kidding? Maffiozas or the place at the Arcade. Okay, so you can’t get Hawaiian Plate BBQ here yet, but, there is plenty to explore. We could still use an In and Out Burger.

Okay, back to music.  Country is going through a lot of changes. The ripple of the Taylor Swift explosion that Big Machine Records put into motion are still being felt, being one of the only Platinum Recording Artists in the new digital era, as well as outside pressures from Texas Charts, the Red Dirt scene and T-Bone Burnett Produced masterpieces that can’t be denied.

Country even has its own street cred in Nashville with bands like Kort who are local but signed over in England as well as Indie Singer / Songwriter Caitlin Rose and Country spun  Those Darlins. Even Charlie Louvin, who as part of The Louvin Brothers can take some credit for inspiring The Everly Brothers and therefore The Beatles harmonies, got his Indie cred with The Battle Rages On that was released on Austin’s Chicken Ranch Records. I can say I got to see two Midnight Jamboree tapings and get his autograph on an early Louvin Brothers recording before he passed into immortality.

So what about Nashville’s own Indie scene? Heypenny, Jeff The Brotherhood, Cheer Up Charlie Daniels,  Uncle Skeleton, Pujol, Heavy Cream (kind of Karen-O fronting a better looking MC5), Todd Snider, John Carter Cash, The Coolin System, The Deep Fried 5 and a laundry list playing at places like The Basement, The End, Danzig’s House, Exit/In, The Rutledge, Mercy Lounge and a house party near you.

How could Rolling Stone not call Nashville the best Music Scene in the country? It is a multi pronged Country, Alt-Country, Americana, Bluegrass, Newgrass, Folk, roots, rock, funkified attack on your senses.

It’s one of those places you could actually plan a week of your life to check out bands as well as pick up a new Nudie or Katy K suit. A place where you might find Joe Maphis’ old Mosrite double neck or the Bass player from Cinderella’s vintage Precision Bass on sale on Craigslist.

You may never win over Nashville, but, it’s a good place to write, do your business and go to the Third Sunday at Third pot luck at Doak Turner’s house in Nashville. Maybe it doesn’t have a burgeoning Death Metal scene but it does have The Billy Block Show. When the sun is out you can’t deny how beautiful Nashville is. Where else can “Bless Your Little Heart” actually mean, I don’t give a ****.

Nashville is a great place to throw your guitar case in the corner and call home.

There are several trackbacks links for your viewing pleasure.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN    thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Tim on guitar with The Lola-2002-Tokyo

Tim Boykin’s guitar playing and songwriting are ingrained in the history of the Birmingham Alabama music scene for the last 29 years.  The average Joe on the street may not have any idea who he is, but, if you had stepped into The Nick some night and heard Carnival Season in the mid 80’s or went to see Topper Price & The Upsetters in the 90’s, you would have seen one of the Incredibles.  A guitarists’ Guitarist.   Birmingham’s “Alex Chilton”.  A chameleon with a wide musical palette and the ability to execute any direction he wants to go.

Recently, with the release of Carnival Season “The Complete Recordings 1984-89”, he has now gone full circle. This was the beginning. I was able to find a copy at Charlemagne Records last weekend.  The music was easy to access because it immediately reminded me of The Replacements. Carnival Season was one of the first Indie Rock acts to travel in the 80’s to the outside world from Birmingham going as far as the West Coast and showing that Alabama had its own thing brewing.

I met Tim at The Nick sometime early in 2005 at one of the reunion gigs for one of his bands and I mean just one of his bands, The Shame Idols. I was totally impressed with his delivery and the music (think Big Star, The Byrds, the Beatles, The Replacements). The conversation developed into what bands we liked and I found out there was a lot of stuff that we both liked. One of which was The Flamin’ Groovies, of which Tim had done a Japanese only release of “Shake Some Action” with another band he had called The Lolas.

Lolas Something You Oughta Know Japanese Import

This is one busy musician with a history I probably would not have stumbled onto had I not lived in Birmingham at the time. Danny Everitt, local musician and front of house engineer at The Nick said Tim was his favorite guitarist and I shouldn’t miss an opportunity to see him play. This was a local legend and more importantly it was music with influences from bands in my own collection of The Replacements, Big Star, Raspberries, The Kinks,  Flamin’ Groovies or The Sweet.

Shame Idols, 2 original CD’s in the 90’s, new 2007 reunion disc

I was able to find a used copy of The Shame Idols, “I Got Time “at Charlemagne Records. Charlemagne Records in the Five Points area,  Southside of Birmingham is a little independent store where you could find local music and also ask questions when you were looking for stuff by locals. Luckily, Tim’s music was there.

The Lolas “Something You Oughta Know” was also there and it was a new copy.  Now this one really brought up the British Kinks thing. But, it was also its own thing. The music was stellar and the lyrics were written about anything you could imagine including “Tim’s Mom”, which I would take to be a tribute to his mother.

 I finally saw a version of The Lolas play on pure accident. My band had a practice space at a place called “The HOTel” pronounced “The Hot-L” in Birmingham. In the main area of this old industrial building just north of UAB was a wooden stage and open room. Local bands in Birmingham have spaces of all sizes on two levels rented out to practice at full volume night and day without any hassle from the Police or nosey neighbors. The stage also allows bands to either practice for a gig coming up, record with a large room to get a decent rock and roll recording or put on a show for some friends or a private party.

It was place known by even fewer people, mainly musicians and a few of their friends. Here was Tim all set up for a Lolas gig. The only one I got to hear, on The HOTel stage after band practice. He launched into a full set with a 3 piece version of The Lolas with about 30 of us in attendance. Incredible music that should be on The Rolling Stone’s list of “500 Best Albums of All Time” as well as “200 Best Guitarist of All Time” and “200 Best Rock Songwriters of All Time”.

Tim’s writing never disappoints.  Tim has MySpace pages for each of the bands and his own personal page of whatever he is brewing at his own studio. You can find Vinyl and CD’s of Carnival Season, The Shame Idols and The Lolas, but, it is not easy. I still need to find a copy of The Lolas “Silver Dollar Sunday”. I should have bought the copy at a now defunct CD Store in Homewood, Alabama while I had the chance.

The best starting point is Charlemagne Records in Birmingham, Alabama. Beyond that, you might find a used copy on Amazon.com,  Grimey’s in Nashville, Tennessee or Criminal Records in Atlanta, Georgia if you are lucky.

Tim has been involved with a shelf full of other projects in the last couple of years beyond the reunion gig of Carnival Season in 2007. Tim has been involved with both reunion gigs of Carnival Season, Lolas, Shame Idols as well as with other bands such as The Tim Boykin Blues Band, Slang, Annexed Asylum, Drivin and Cryin as well as some death metal projects flown in there. It is hard to pinpoint Tim because his influence and abilities are endless.  He can out do any power pop, indie rock, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani or Randy Rhoads wanna be. There is an upcoming show with Carnival Season at The Bottletree in Birmingham if you want to check it out.

Carnival Season, 1980’s Tim Boykin on Les Paul, cool Dean ML Bass

Model Citizen, Tim Boykin Produced “The Inner Fool” CD

Tim’s blues playing  can be heard on both of the Topper Price and The Upsetters recordings, “Nature” and “Long Way From Home” that can be found exclusively at Charlemagne Records. These are well worth the purchase. These are great recordings of the late Topper Price, one of the best examples of what Birmingham’s greatness is all about. Also, he currently jams with The Tim Boykin Blues Band that also features Matt Kimbrell on drums.

Tim also produced one of the best Indie CD’s to come out of the Birmingham scene, Model Citizen “The Inner Fool”. Good luck finding this recording. If you are like me and will hunt around for stuff that is worth the effort, you will not be disappointed.

Timmeh with Matt Kimbrell, Tim Boykin Blues Band

You can usually find Tim with his Blue Les Paul somewhere playing in Birmingham, but then again it could be any variety of guitar or amp depending on the tone needed for the night. If you want to improve your chops and live in the Birmingham area I recommend you take some lessons which he luckily does give at a reasonable rate.

Tim also owns Bushido Sound recording studio in Birmingham, Alabama and is available, to record or even Produce projects.

Tim has a full multiple careers worth of music that is worth searching out. Tim has managed to stay true to whatever limb he wants to go out on. He is indie to the core.

Discography:

Carnival Season                                                Misguided Promise Carnival Season Complete (1984-89) (2010)

The Barking Tribe. Serpent Go Home.(1991)

 Shame Idols                                      I Got Time (1995)

                                                                Rocket Cat (1998)

                                                                The Light Is Always On (2007)

(Recent search, all available at Amazon.com)

Jerry Guitar demo with Topper Price (1996)

 Lolas                                                     Shake Some Action (Japanese 7 inch 45 rpm vinyl only)

                                                                Silver Dollar Sunday

                                                                Something You Oughta Know

                                                                Ballerina Breakout (2006)

                                                                Let’s Rock, Rave and Shout with The Lolas! (Featuring a shot of Timmeh playing at The Nick with star spangled flag in the background)

(Recent search, found on Amazon, Something You Oughta Know, Ballerina Breakout and Let’s Rock, Rave and Shout with The Lolas! Japanese Import only and very expensive, but, well worth every penny)

Topper Price & The Upsetters    Nature

                                                                Long Way From Home

(Both are exclusively available at Charlemagne Records, Birmingham, Alabama)

Annexed Asylum                             Combustion (speed, death and other subgenre metal)

(Available on cdbaby.com)

Recommended cuts:

Carnival Season                                                Please Don’t Send Me To Heaven

                                                                                 Seems Alright

Shame Idols                                       I Got Time

                                                                Rocket Cat

                                                                My Star

Lolas                                                      Tim’s Mom

                                                                Dana The Chromium Girl

                                                                Plenty of Dogs                                  

Links:

www.myspace.com/timboykinbluesband

www.timmehworld.com

Timmeh World is the best place to go to link with all of his current projects.

www.myspace.com/annexedasylum

www.timmehworld.com/etherdogs/mp3/ether_dogs.html

www.myspace.com/shameidolsrock

www.myspace.com/lolasm18

On you tube:

Most videos uploaded by either reaperpro or wilsonbpw

Shame Idols – The Light is Always On (filmed at Cave 9 in Birmingham in 2007)

Carnival  Season – Feb 1989 – 01 – “Please Don’t  Send Me To Heaven”

Topper Price and The Upsetters at Sloss Furnace (1993)

Carnival Season:  Black Velvet Elvis

Tim Boykin Blues Band – Reconsider Baby (live) Featuring great shots of Sloss Furnace venue

and various photos of the band and historic Birmingham, Alabama.

Crazy Train – Slang live at AJs (Tim Boykin on guitar) Recorded May 14, 2010

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN