Archives for category: East Nashville

Celebrating Nashville Vinyl store finds and stating digital pundits are all wrong!

courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

If you haven’t noticed, collecting vinyl records is becoming a huge thing among all age groups in Nashville. United Record Pressing has become so backlogged that they are expanding into another space. Record Store Day is like a city wide holiday with bands playing all day long at Grimey’s, The Groove and Fond Object.

*many hyperlinks go back to vinyl videos*

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

I caught the bug a few years ago after getting an original copy of Jerry Lee LewisBreathless” on 7 inch Sun Records while going through Bee Branch Arkansas on the way back from Branson, Missouri that I found at a vintage and junk shop.

I didn’t even have anything to play it on, since I have not owned a turntable since 1988. I even sold off my collection which was really large and deep and full of imports in the late eighties for practically nothing. I know I wasn’t the only one to do that.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

It wasn’t until I started buying some vinyl over at Third Man Records that I finally bought a turntable and the venerable receiver and speakers to go with it. It all started on Craigslist where I went through two old well-heeled Marantz and Sony Receivers that burned out after about a year each. The JBL near field monitors and home theater Subwoofers that I located have stood the test of time. I went through one Sony turntable where the line level pre amp fried before going back to Amazon and settling on a reasonably priced yet better sounding Audio Technica turntable. The Sherwood receiver I purchased through Amazon has specs right out of 1990 with 100 watts per side and has a great protection circuit that has stood up for two years.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Ever since that has been resolved, I have been able to concentrate on collecting. Most Collectors are going for the twelve inch 33’s and prices are increasing. I do have a paltry 100 or so “long-play” twelve inch records but I really wanted to hear the sound of the seven inch [45’s] records like I remember.

Post Sex Pistols, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Post Sex Pistols, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Post Sex Pistols, Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Post Sex Pistols, Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Just like 16 bit CD’s and 24 bit hi-def, analog has some rules to tone and bigger mid-range. Twelve inch 45’s are a whole other thing entirely that became popular in the eighties but I’m not going there. Let’s just talk about seven inch records. Although 12 inch 45’s are best known as dance remixes from the 80’s, my first experience was a French Sex Pistols release of “Anarchy In The UK” on that format in 1978 at a Punk Rock shop in Santa Cruz, California.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Seven inch records could be made with more bass and increased output without worrying about the needle skipping on the record. The 45 mix often will be a lot different than the album mix. The flip side or “B” side may be a song that is not available on a record. The mix may be different in other countries. I remember owning a French Polydor copy of Jimi HendrixVoodoo Chile” where the mix had been cranked up and the guitar sounded like you were standing with your ear up against the grill cloth. I used to play it for friends back in the eighties and watch their jaw drop.

The Beatles used to release songs either on albums or on seven inch singles. Eventually the singles showed up as a collection like the Hey Jude album or the double gatefold red and blue albums.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

In my own collection, there was a huge difference between the album cut of The Rolling Stones’ “Get Off Of My Cloud” where Brian Jones’ snaking lead notes were pronounced and the single where Keith Richards’ crunchy rhythm guitar is cranked up and really drives the song playing off of Charlie Watts’ snare. It made the difference between good and great.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

The Sweet talked about how when they found out that “Fox On The Run” was being released as a single, the members of the band went in and completely remixed the song with a much harder edge akin to Motley Crue than the album version. Sweet did this behind Management and Producers backs. They knew what it should sound like and took things into their own hands. They got everybody upset and mad even though the record did well. I’m glad that Sweet did that.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Another good thing about singles is that it was formatted for AM radio where three minutes was the goal and there were limitations to time versus physical size. While some edits were a little annoying some were appreciated if you just wanted to groove and not go into a “space-out mode” like the deleted bridge in the single version of “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. Not to mention, if you haven’t heard Led Zeppelin on seven inch like original cuts “Living Loving Maid” or “Black Dog” than you are in for an experience full of Bonham’s snare cracks and home stereo speakers that will turn into a Jimmy Page Marshall half-stack.

As far as actual tone, I read all the garbage between vinyl and analog buffs and digital hi-def die-hards and it really comes down to whether you like a lot of high frequency stuff that only dogs can hear in a world where a computer doesn’t recognize playing on top of the note or stretch tuning and changes the actual information as well as removing all the bits of sound that define a mid frequency instruments’ personality versus a couple of snaps or crackles and something that sounds very dynamic, alive and in your living room.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

You can take the test for yourself. I own a copy of Bob Marley: Legends on CD and a new old stock copy of “Is This Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers. I did a side-by-side. The most important aspect is Bob Marley’s voice. If you only heard it on CD, you would never recognize the grit and air that make up his actual voice texture. They are gone in the digital realm. While digital is supposed to be more accurate, it actually sounds like a comical cheap imitation.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Another side by side would be Parliament’s “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk) regarding the groove aspect. Not only does the vinyl single sound thicker and richer in the mids but the sharp edged funk of a tight group gets lost in the digital conversion as the numeric digital world has different numeric values for different frequencies and the groove of all the instruments locking together becomes nothing more than a cool drum pattern with a bunch of instruments that seem to clog undeniably slightly loose at every juncture. The true groove is gone in the digital realm.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

One more major complaint is what digital did to Duane Allman. I own digital versions of “Layla” and Duane’s slide sounds sharp and out of tune thanks to digital algorithms. If you listen to the vinyl album or single you’ll notice Duane is playing on top of the note [not out of tune] and it gives a lift to the mood at that point in the song. It is absolutely beautiful. Too bad Duane didn’t know that computers were going to make his slide out of tune and unlistenable.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Okay, enough of my own observations that seem to defy the logic of quantized digital junkies. If it is all about sounding “real”, “in your living space” and with a wide sound field then that needle dragging through a frequency groove like a work of art is the way to go. If you like snappy eighties style keyboard loops and auto tuned vocals then the current state of shared files should work for you just fine.

My Mother's favorite before she passed away in 1966, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

My Mother’s favorite before she passed away in 1966, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

When I started collecting, one of my friends here in town thought I was going to just go back and buy everything I used to own. I did go after some of that but there were a lot of things I missed growing up and there are songs that did well regionally here in Nashville and are readily available as opposed to many songs that I was into growing up in California.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

For the most part, I grew up in Fresno, California from the last half of 2nd grade through my junior year in high school. That time spent in Fresno meant that my tastes are eclectic, all over the place and really just defined by musicianship, groove or originality.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

If I had to define Fresno during the seventies by five groups, it would probably be Tower Of Power, Supertramp, The Tubes, Sly & The Family Stone and Buck Owens. My personal taste goes way beyond that, but those would be five groups that anybody who grew up there would say, “Oh yeah, for sure they were big in Fresno.” I can name a song by every one of those bands that I liked as well as anybody from Hoover High School Class of 78 could as well.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

You could add any horn band like Chicago, Malo or Blood Sweat & Tears. The biggest cover band was called March Hare [scan of Fresno City College school newspaper circa 1978, see page 4 , article on group called Windfall for more on March Hare members]. They had a full horn section and could play just about anything popular at the time and got paid the most money. They had a four piece, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards group called Spare Hare for a fraction of the full band cost.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

My own personal taste ran the gamut of Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk, Jazz, Punk and so on. I even liked some Country although it really was my parents’ music at the time. To give you an idea, I listened to Judas Priest, The Ramones and liked Power Pop like Raspberries and Pezband but my dream gig would have been to play guitar for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in 1977.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

If I tried to collect everything from my past, I would be in deep for years and years.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

There are particular records that I look for such as the three dominant records I remember from my earliest days in San Jose before my parents died in San Jose, California. I have purchased the trio. The Rolling Stones “Get Off Of My Cloud” was the first record I purchased at age 6, by myself, after my mother said I could pick something out. It is still one of my favorites. The other two were San Jose regional records that went onto the national charts, The Syndicate Of SoundLittle Girl” and Count FivePsychotic Reaction.” I did get to watch Count Five practice two blocks away from my Orchard View childhood home back when.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Just about any War single reminds me of Fresno, especially “Me And Baby Brother” which is in my 400 plus and building singles collection.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

In the mid-seventies, I was really into what was modern metal or Hard Rock at the time and singles like UFO, “ Too Hot To Handle” found in Louisville, Kentucky as well as Sweet flipside “Burn On The Flame” remind me of my early band years playing guitar.

As far as collecting goes in Nashville, the biggest amount and the most variety of seven inch records would go to The Great Escape on Charlotte Pike. Pricing is really reasonable. There are loads of $1.00 singles as well as collectables that for the most part are not over $10-a-piece. They put out their new inventory every Thursday and it is kept in bins by date if not in any kind of alphabetical order.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Record Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Record Collection

The Great Escape in Madison may not have as big a selection but will usually have different records then the ones found at the West Nashville store. The best thing to do, regarding The Great Escape, is to sign up for their email list and get notification when records will be off 20% or when they have their sidewalk 25 cent sale including the Bowling Green, Kentucky location.

I usually go for the 25 cent sales including Bowling Green, Kentucky and start digging around. It is important to go with no preconceived notions. It also helps to have some in-depth knowledge of decades of music. They used to have 10 cent sales but I don’t think that will be around again.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Examples of things I have found at 25 cent sales include a radio copy of Pat MethenyNew Chautauqua” which I never knew was released as a single until I found a brand new old stock copy at The Great Escape in Madison. I also found a brand new old stock seven inch copy of “Taboo” by Arthur Lyman. I remember “Taboo” from my Dad’s twelve inch long play records. He had installed a built in system in the living room and this was Hi-Fidelity recording. It was meant to show off frequency response and clarity but it would now be categorized as Lounge Music. It would fit in with a Martin Denny collection. I don’t think any of these records sold well in this format but it is so cool to have them on seven inch.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

In Nashville, there are a lot of radio copies around that ended up in retired DJ collections as the format declined and now they are all over town. A rule of thumb on seven inch radio copies is that in the 50’s and 60’s they actually spun the record numerous times and there can be a lot of wear on a very popular record and little wear on a record that did not take off.

In the 70’s and 80’s, AM radio used a tape cartridge similar to 8 track tape and would record the cut to be played multiple times on tape till it wore out and then would re-record on a new “Cart”. It is possible to find near mint radio copies from the 70’s and 80’s. I have found a few. My gem is a radio copy from the late 60’s of Big Brother & The Holding CompanyPiece Of My Heart” where Janis Joplin’s live performance rings clear and gives a front row seat of her performance. It gives me the chills. I paid less than $10 almost two years ago at The Great Escape.

Apple Records from Portugal, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collecton

Apple Records from Portugal, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collecton

Although it is easy to find several Excello record titles in Nashville, I have yet to find any of the three Marion James “Nashville’s Queen of The Blues” singles that were released here locally after years of searching. I guess I will have to resort to Ebay.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

There is no problem finding all the Country you want, especially mint new old stock copies of deep catalog Artists. I don’t know enough about that to make an educated guess. I do have Patsy ClineI Fall To Pieces”, plenty of Buck Owens and some Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson singles are plentiful even on the smaller labels as he was really popular in Nashville as a songwriter. A good place for deep catalog new old stock Country would be Lawrence Record Shop down on Lower Broadway although I did find a Wreckless Eric single on Stiff Records as well as the previously mentioned Bob Marley copy of “Is This Love” at Lawrence Record Shop.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

With current interest in Muscle Shoals, Fame Records can be found easily and I definitely look for Candi Staton and other Jimmy Hall produced gems. The Great Escape on Charlotte Pike usually has plenty of Fame Records along with all things Beatles and Elvis.

Since Nashville was a big hub for actual Music “Business”, there was manufacturing, distribution, recording, management and publicity that all had copies of material. There were warehouses and backrooms of vinyl that never got sold that now has found its way into used vinyl stores all over town. It’s not all Country either.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

While Grimey’s would be ranked number one for new vinyl in town, as far as used seven inch records, it’s best to go the to the Grimey’s Too [Preloved Store] and go through the two boxes on the front desk. That would be the most recent purchases. I recently found a radio copy of Blind MelonTones of Home” by doing just that. I was surprised to even see a vinyl radio copy release from 1992. I found a vintage radio copy of Judas Priest’ “Living After Midnight” as well for $1.00.

Grimey’s does stock the largest selection of local label seven inch releases. It is possible to buy a new record from GED Soul along with Infinity Cat and Third Man Records all in the same trip.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

The Groove is great for new vinyl but also has a decent stock of used seven inch vinyl. Because of its East Nashville neighborhood location, they have quite a few used copies of Alternative and Punk bands from the 90’s to the present day. If that is a specific thing, this would be a great place to check out. For me, I’m primarily looking for 60’s and 70’s but there usually is an 80’s record worth getting every time I stop by. This was the only place in town that I saw a single by The Jam. It was an import. I am looking for stateside releases since they are even harder to find.

Fond Object is an interesting place. This started from the owners’ own private collection, I believe, he was based out of Austin so, this store has a lot of late 80’s and 90’s Punk. Fond Object had stuff that probably was never available in Nashville in a retail used vinyl store. They actually had a copy of The Sex PistolsPretty Vacant” American release on Warner Brothers but they wanted $20 for it, so I passed hoping to get at a place where it would mean nothing like Lawrence Record Shop.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Third Man Records has just about every Third Man seven inch release in stock at any given time at their company store. My favorite non-Jack White single, Dan SartainBohemian Grove” was easy to find. Dan Sartain with Matt Patton [Model Citizen, The Dexateens, and The Drive By Truckers] on bass was part of the Birmingham Scene when I lived there. Third Man has been releasing a few Sun Records seven inch re-releases as well. The Raconteurs cut “Old Enough” with Ricky Skaggs still has never been released on vinyl at the home of the world’s fastest record.

Infinity Cat opened up their office to visitors with new vinyl behind United Record Pressing after having numerous fans show up at the door wanting to say “hi” on their visit to Nashville.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

That’s about it for seven inch records, except for, maybe the occasional find in an antique mall. After all, most of these records would be considered antiques.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

It’s always worth checking out the local shop when you’re out on the road. I stopped by Rasputin Records in San Jose when I was out in California recently and found the Record Store Day release of Junior Kimbrough and The Black Keys both doing “Meet Me In The City” [Fat Possum] which was impossible to find here after they were all immediately snatched up. Hill Country Blues is well known in Nashville, but the single had little value in San Jose, California. Apparently, the locals are clueless about Junior and there was a stack of copies available.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

It was also easier to get a copy of Simo’s single through Amoeba’s website in California.

  • Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

charles butlerVery Entertaining Records Artist Charles Butler took his banjo for a ride on Daft Punk’s “ Get Lucky” a few days ago and posted it to YouTube on May 25th and after a few links by random bloggers, Huffington Post took notice and now the East Nashville banjo style version is nearing a million hits.

Charles Butler posted May 27th on YouTube, “A heartfelt thanks to everyone who left words of encouragement! And thank you to Daft Punk. Random Access Memories is amazing, go get it. I am going to cut a new version of this to offer as a free download, and produce some banjo tab for those who are interested, probably within a week or so.”

There are now videos of people watching his version on YouTube.

Very Entertaining Records Bill Davis is excited about the light being shined on his label mate and friend.

How far can this go? How about a kickstarter campaign to press a back to back 7 inch of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and Charles Butler? For information on Charles Butler and Very Entertaining Records contact info@veryentertaingrecords.com.

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

Charles Butler photo courtesy Very Entertaining Records

Meadownoise at The Groove, Aug. 25th, all photos-Brad Hardisty

Meadow noise , a solo project by Matt Glassmeyer, released a new Seven inch vinyl – CD combo in limited signed handmade numbers with an in-store at The Groove in East Nashville last Saturday, August 25th, with a solid set of new material.

With beer on tap and moderate temps, The Groove hosted what could have been called more of a house party than an in-store at their current location.  The Groove fits in with a neighborhood chalk-full of the new Nashville, an ever changing local scene of new songwriters, that while serious on storytelling, don’t have any Country twang and live in a cross culture of the classic “Leave It To Beaver” neighborhood with modern urban eateries.

Meadownoise is a one man “combo” taking a Billy Preston meets Bruce Hornsby approach to a post Five For Fighting world played out on an old studio furniture prize, a fifty year old Wurlitzer Electric Piano with some mild changes in delay textures and a backbeat of self-created looped rhythms that Matt creates by beating on a guitar with some metal works on the body and then twists the heck out of a parametric EQ to create beat machine style audio.

The biggest piece of Meadownoise is the word pictures that seem to make you think in new ways with new lines, kind of like when Jeni’s moved into the neighborhood and forced patrons to describe Ice Cream in new terminologies for the triple scoop.

The songs ran the gamut, like a verbal historical narrative of a Nashvillian middle age soldier viewing the changes as the Civil War was starting. Nashville was taken over by the Yankees very early on and it was a strange site to paraphrase, “The blues are coming.”  The blues were coming, but, in a different way that would change the south.

Even Toddlers got the beat! Meadownoise at The Groove.

I guess the real songplay came with “Get Back at My Girlfriend” with a beat reminiscent of The Beatles, “Get Back” and Billy Preston’s Electric Piano driving a very new chord structured Indie groove.  

Meadownoise publicly thanked family, friends and a laundry list of supporters that helped to make the release happen as well as inviting everybody over for an after party at his house as well as a late night gig at the Secret Identities Art Show.

It really was a neighborhood show,  a tight village of eclectic musicians and songwriters on every block with a studio nearby that produced Robert Plant’s last album. An enclave where people eat handfuls of crunchy things, buy locally sourced meat and where change and a classic 40’s style neighborhood intersect.

Meadownoise, handcrafted packaging, limited run, 7 inch- CD combo.

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

Last Friday night, after trying to figure out how to get from West End across the I-24 construction zone to East Nashville on surface streets (can you say, “Where the hell am I?”), I barely made it in the door at 11 PM, at The 5 Spot in Five Points for the CD Release Party, get near the stage, Ben Lowry (guitar) glances up and then Abby Hairston (drums) says, “Brad! Ya Made it!” and Bang Ok Bang starts into one of the loudest sets I have heard at The 5 Spot.

Bang Ok Bang/ The 5 Spot – Photos – Brad Hardisty

Bang Ok Bang, is the latest project that puts Ben on guitar instead of Bass with The One Through Tens (The 1-10’s) where Abby also rocks on the skins.

This is a lot heavier and a little more insane then The One Through Tens.

Bang Ok Bang joins the A-list Nashville two man bands, The White Stripes (RIP), The Black Keys and Jeff The Brotherhood. The only difference is Bang Ok Bang would be a great opener for somebody like Queens Of The Stone Age or Slayer.

Ben puts a twist on Chet Atkins picking style by covering the low end through an Ampeg Bass rig, with some gnarly snaking fuzzy bass lines a la Vincebus Eruptum, with stripped down Ministry- influenced- at- Motorhead speed chords and notes through a Marshall.

The only other player I have seen that simultaneously can play the low end and the chords and melody like a total fake out is Lightnin’ Malcolm, the bad ass one-half of the 2 Man Wrecking Crew with Cedric Burnside.

How does the two-man-heavy-stoner rock go over at The 5 Spot? Well, the room was packed where they were the third band up and everybody pulled away from the bar and crowded the stage, grinning and kind of thinking, “Is this guy really pulling off Dickie Peterson and Al Jourgensen at the same time?”

Hey Mr. Marshall meet Mr. Ampeg and try to keep up with Abby. Abby was a solid Bill Ward influenced box beater going from kick to heavy thrashing of the Toms between solid grooves and stoner prog breaks.

With songs like “Above The Surface”, the tender titled “Always For You”, not to be confused with an Everly Brother’s number and “Chemicals Pt. 1 & 2”, I think it is time to pull a two man band festival.

Okay, bring back The White Stripes one more time and let’s have Lightnin’ Malcolm & Cedric Burnside, Jeff The Brotherhood, The Black Keyes and Bang Ok Bang all on the same bill at The Ryman. I would pay $100 to see that show.

Ben’s vocals are what you see is what you get punk rock ethos. I don’t think he could pull off a Josh Stone or Freddie Mercury anyways. Hey, but that’s okay, it’s dang close to Blue Cheer with a healthy Ministry grinding to keep heavy freaks and East Nashville hobnobbers  showing up at the same venue kind of like a Crema Cuban Triple Espresso with a Rooster’s Texas style Brisket Sandwich with all the spicy 911 Jack’s BBQ sauce you can handle.

If I had to compare them to any regional scene band it would be Black Tusk out of Georgia witnessing a little “Hillbilly Voodoo” at a Southern Gothic movie convention in Cordova, Alabama with Ministry providing the soundtrack, Juicifer providing cocktails and Henry Rollins on vocals.

I picked up the “limited to 150” new EP CD and it sounds great. Four songs to irritate office workers as you roll down the window of your Ford Fiesta and crank it full volume. I have number 86/150 and I won’t take less then 5K for it okay, so don’t even ask. If you want yours, you better show up for their next set at The Zombie Shop on July 27th.

Bang a gong, get it on!

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

Wanda Jackson at Mercy Lounge 2010

Easter is all about a renewal, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it means to us. Nashville itself is a town of resurrection, a place where Jack White has produced two great albums by Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson and where the underbelly that was East Nashville is the place to be.

Speaking of East Nashville, Bob Dylan came here in the Sixties to make a 180 in his career and where Robert Plant came just a couple of years ago to do just the same.  Speaking of which, I have heard that he has set up shop with Patty Griffin in Austin since the Band of Joy tour.

What is Nashville to me? A Californian-slash-Alabama bluesman? I started making the drive up to Nashville quite often starting in 2006 from Birmingham. I liked the fact that you could wander from one honky tonk to another and check out all the Telecaster blasters playing through mostly Fender tube amps almost any hour of the day.

I finally made the move after getting positive feedback about my songwriting abilities from a local publishing head at the end of 2007.

It was a very surreal world, where one Saturday morning, wandering around a guitar show, I ended up talking to Scotty Moore about how many Bill Black Combos, Bill really had.  The next minute, I am jamming on my 1936 Gibson Electric Hawaiian down on Lower Broad when Little Jimmy Dickens comes wandering out of nowhere and watches me jam for about 10 minutes, throws a $20 dollar bill into the vintage case and says. “Keep it up!” Mind you, I’m not making this up. In fact, if you are from Nashville, you know what I mean and are probably saying, “So what.”

I realized that everybody had a story, whether it was the Baskin Robbins on Lebanon that said Porter Wagoner used to come in all the time, or a snapshot in the window of Robert Plant stopping in to check out the guitars.

So what do I like about Nashville, now that I have been here a few years?

Strange Karma down on Lower Broad celebrating the bassist birthday!

Let’s see, there is more diversity than what outsiders would think, for starters, I have met a ton of Aussies and I, seriously, have never met one I didn’t want to hang with whether it was Anthony Snape or Strange Karma. I wonder if it was like this when Keith Urban first came here and was playing at the Guitar Bar? Did the Aussies start coming after Keith’s success or is Nashville a big magnet?

As far as diversity goes, you can get world class Indian Cuisine, of which I am all about Tamarind on Demonbreun. I’ve ate Indian food all over the place and that is about as good as it gets.  There are several ethnic communities here, whether it be Egyptian Coptic Christians or Somalis, the list goes on and makes for Eateries that go way beyond the meat and three.

Something is in the water in East Nashville, with several upstart, one of a kind places like Far East Nashville, not only your typical Vietnamese Pho and Vermicelli bowls, but, the actual family recipes fixed by the owners brother, in a totally unique way.

Porter Road Butcher Shop makes some amazing sausages featuring probably the best Andouille Sausage this far north of Bayou Country.  In fact, that is what I had for Easter. I could have whatever I wanted, so, I faxed three eggs with some sharp Vermont Cheddar and some of that Andouille Sausage on the side.

Nashville is a vinyl fanatic’s pipe dream, wandering between Grimeys, The Groove, Phonoluxe and the two Great Escape locations there is no reason to ever come up empty handed. In fact, there is a plethora of radio station promo copies which are usually on heavier, better quality vinyl.  Record Store Day is almost like a city holiday where a huge migration descends mainly on Grimeys by the thousands. My only gripe would be, is there no bootlegs? Back when, I used to travel over to Berkeley to Moe’s Bookstore and get vinyl Beatles bootlegs as well as concerts and demos engraved onto vinyl by everything from Queen to Aerosmith to The Clash it was something nobody else had.

Music is everywhere, as I laid down to bed the first few months in Nashville, I could hear music in my head like never before, like ghost radio stations, it seemed like there were thousands of songwriters who had passed on and never left Nashville, they were just trying to get that next big hit. It seemed as if there was singing in the netherworld and all you had to be was a little bit spiritually aware.

Tommy Tutone and Mario at Nashville Amp Expo

I think there are more Telecasters in a 30 mile radius than the whole state of California, where they were invented.  If you can’t find the perfect Telecaster, there are boutique builders from Mario Guitars in Murfreesboro to Chad Underwood in Lexington, Kentucky.

As far as electric guitar parts go, Rock Blocks Guitars has a wall of supplies juts minutes away.

Looking at the Musical Instrument section in Craigslist can be eye opening. You never know what you will find, anything from a 1964 Fender Precision sold by the bass player in Cinderella after a career’s worth of touring to a Gold Top Les Paul owned by Duane Allman. If there is a vintage Sho-Bud Steel around, no doubt, eventually, you’ll see it on Craigslist.

Southside Gentlemans Club at Burt's Tiki Lounge, newly acquired Dr. Z Stang Ray in the backline. 2009

My favorite personal story is about my Dr. Z Amplifier. I had been writing and playing my own brand of Ragtime Blues when I moved to Nashville. I had been using a 45 Watt Samamp from Birmingham when I got here and it was just too much. I was ready for a little 30 Watt or less combo. There are so many and I just decided to try them all. I brought my arch top with me and made the rounds from Corner Music to Gruehn Guitars to Rock Blocks. Finally, when I plugged into this Dr. Z Stang Ray at Rock Blocks, I had met my match, a simple tone stack, where you could really fill out the bass and a simple good looking black with white trim amp.  The speaker had been changed out to a Cannabis Rex and it had a sound all its own.

The price tag was $2100. I didn’t have $2100. In fact, even with selling some gear, donating blood and street gigging down on Lower Broad, I still probably would be $1000 a way. I needed that amp. I put it in God’s hands. It’s okay to say that in Nashville isn’t it? Well, that’s what I did, true story. I prayed and said, I’ve tried all the amps out that I can think of and that is the one that sounds right then tucked it away.

Well, things looked bleak when I lost my job in 2008, in fact, really bleak, I left Nashville, worked five months in Memphis, then that company went bankrupt and I ended up taking a job with a national company in Utah and moved out of Tennessee.

I never gave up on the music, I got my five piece ragtime blues band together in Utah, playing at Burt’s Tiki Lounge, finding some great musicians from an add I put out in Craigslist. On a whim in early 2009, I looked up the Nashville Craigslist and found that exact Dr. Z Stang Ray for sale. Guitarist, Gary Ishee, had put an add up that read something like this;“I bought this Dr. Z Stang Ray earlier this year at Rock Blocks and I need to sell it.”

It looked identical. I called him up and explained that I was stuck out in Utah, but, that I knew the amp and through our talk, he knew I was the real deal. I wired the money to his bank account including the cost to ship it. I bought it for $1250. I was able to come up with that only because I went out west to a company on a bad stretch, because of the economy, they let me have all the overtime I could handle. I got the amp in a big Roland amplifier box from UPS in Farr West, Utah and it was the exact amp. I sat there and cried. It was the exact same amp, in fact, the only amp I ever prayed about and I will include the picture of my group, The Southside Gentlemens Club playing at Burt’s Tiki Lounge a couple of months later with the amp in the backline.

Thank you Brad Paisley for input on the AC30 hybrid design, what a great amp. I still own it and fire it up almost every day in hopes to lay down some tracks here soon.   

Okay tracks, let’s talk about that. I was in Utah almost a year, when I came out here on vacation in September 2009. I had hoped to move back to Nashville someday, maybe when the economy got better, but, on a whim, I had kept in touch with a realtor, who didn’t give up on me, even though, I was out in the Rocky Mountain West. I will drop his name, because Kenneth Bargers is an amazing Realtor. He emailed me faithfully every month some houses I would be interested in.  When I was here for a week in September 2009, Kenneth Bargers took me around on two afternoons to look at houses.  I felt like I was back home, I wanted to be back in Nashville, I did not want to get back on the plane.

Daniel Turner

We found a house I really liked. The last night I was in town, I was hanging around and moping by the pool at the airport Courtyard over on Elm Hill Pike, not wanting to leave Nashville. I decided I needed to go do something, pull myself up by my bootstraps. So I got dressed and headed over to Commodore Grille to check out some songwriters. Cowboy Jack Clement was in the round and it gave me goose bumps. I thought, if I had stayed at the hotel, I would have missed this.  I decided I need to get back and I was heading out the door when I heard somebody call my name. “Brad!” I looked up and it was Daniel Turner, one of my music friends from Birmingham, Alabama walking in. I said to him, “What are you doing here?”  He explained that he was going to be playing the next round. It was a great reunion of old friends. I have so much respect for Daniel as an all around musician. He can play, write and sing. If anybody could make a great classic country album, he could. He has such a great voice, but, he had really been influenced by a lot of the Alabama Blues that is around Birmingham.

I went back to my hotel room on cloud nine. I could hardly sleep. I was going to find a way to get back and I did. I interviewed by phone and got a transfer. I found a house on Zillow.com and Kenneth Bargers looked at it for me and on his word, I bought it. In fact, Kenneth represented me at closing in November 2009 and I never walked into the house until the first week of December as an owner. It’s a true story, call Kenneth, if you need a Realtor and you can ask about it. He is the best Realtor in Nashville as far as I am concerned.

Kenny Malone at a clinic at Country Music HOF

Okay, so, I am back. I work hard. I have got to hang with some great musicians and do some great interviews. It’s been a great ride, but, I need to resurrect my own career. Sometimes, I think it would be easier to move down to Pensacola and put together a group from Craigslist and center on a little club or bar to be “our place,” but, there is the dream recording session, the possibility that I can put together, with a little cash or luck, Kenny Malone on drums, “Slick” Joe Fick from The Dempseys on Bass, the violinist I saw at Mike Farris’ in store at Grimeys and get a trumpet player that can play like Al Hirt and get this manic New Orleans meets Memphis circa 1940 music to record. I work hard at the music and I have some great friends. If that part of my career is supposed to “Resurrect,” it will.

For now, I will just enjoy the ride.

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

Kenny Vaughan at Mercy 2011

This would be the year that Indie makes more news in Nashville than Country; what Music City is known for. There seems to be much more going on with the ever developing spider web of Funk, Rock and strange magic underbelly from the Gulch to East Nashville.

Before, we get into this weird year, 2012 with its three Friday the 13ths exactly 13 weeks apart, the intrigue of political discord, 12/21/12, which lines up with Rush’s “Temples of Syrinx” released in 1976, prophecy being realized, “Our great computers, fill the hallowed halls, We are the priests of the temples of syrinx, All the gifts of life, Are held within our walls,” ha! Computers, what a blessing and a curse as all the creative occupations occupied by humans are eliminated by this gift we call knowledge at our fingertips. Remember, when Rush wrote “Temples of Syrinx,” a computer took up a whole room. Well, Steve Jobs, one of the great Priests of the digital age has passed onto the spiritual realm.

The Mayan calendar ends shortly after the election, maybe the world won’t come to an end, but, probably a lot of music will be written about end times and there will be an uptick of heavy dirge and Metal music. This may be the year to contemplate life listening to Dark Side of The Moon again or about sinister underlying forces in Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime.

Before we move through this “L” shaped recovery, one of the most mentally difficult times I can remember in my life, let’s rewind.

 As far as music, 2011 was a “run for cover” year as the “360 deal” pop artists keep spinning their “larger-than-life-80’s-on-ecstacy” fluff with the bands that happen to still be signed to major labels sounding not too far off the Katy Perryesque mark. I think the bands were put on warning, “Rock radio is dying so you better have “Moves Like Jagger.”

Okay, before I get to something positive, there were some disappointments. Janes Addiction, while preparing to release their newest album, The Great Escape Artist, put down their last effort, Strays  as not being that good, when in fact Strays did have a couple of great guitar hooks, while this dark piece, weak on guitar, ended up being more reminiscent of Porno for Pyros.  There was not one solid hook on the entire album.

Red Hot Chili Peppers were able to put together a solid if not remarkable effort with new guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, who may be capable of taking on some Frusciante and Slovak, but not as innovative. Frusciante was a trailblazer; this is like replacing Eddie Van Halen.

So, with FYE the last major chain in Nashville closing its doors at the old Tower Records site, you got your choice, you have major league fluff, really not much different than the cotton candy days before The Beatles and The Rolling Stones crashed the party or you can go outside the box, think for yourself, show up at a Grimey’s in-store or a showcase at The End.

Hello Kelly at The Rutledge, photo courtesy- Jeni George

As far as bands go, Jeff The Brotherhood, joins the two member band fray that goes nationwide, well deserved with great shows locally and at Bonnaroo and beyond. As far as other local rock acts, Hello Kelly always put on a solid show when I saw them this year as well as The Onethroughtens that played solid sets at both the Third Man Vault show and some fashion meets art consortium at Mercy Lounge.

Kenny Vaughan at Ernest Tubb Record Shop

As far as favorite shows, Kenny Vaughan’s record release at Ernest Tubb’s downtown location was the place to be this year with Marty Stuart, the Fabulous Superlatives as well as Chris Scruggs playing to a packed room with about half being friends and relatives.

Jeff Beck at Ryman 2011

Jeff Beck at The Ryman was another phenomenal show as well as the Americana Awards that saw not only The Avett Brothers and The Civil Wars, but, also Robert Plant and Greg Allman bookending appearances with Buddy Miller providing the musical proceedings.

Okay, now for my top ten of the year. Many recordings are sounding more analog in the Indie world, if not recorded analog, the attempt to match the style with the sound that would come out of the influential era a must.

10.  Jeff The Brotherhood  – We Are The Champions

Starting out with some punk rock Buck Rogers guitar laser blasts subsiding into gnarly Maestro phase shifter on “Hey Friend” clocking in with a long intro, the writing is strong, simple and effective. Jeff gets a major label deal off this one. It will be interesting to see how that goes. Their own label, Infinity Cat, being one of the major local indie labels to develop a short roster that has been hitting every club and festival that they can, Jeff the Brotherhood came up with a solid piece of work.

9. The August – Dear Chicago Love Nashville

Jacky Dustin has one strong Country voice, this Chicago band has been down here chasing their Country music dreams for a little while, not waiting to get signed, they put this great piece of Country rockin’ song cycle out themselves.  Big labels, in their search for solos and doubles, have so far overlooked this great band. What’s wrong with a great band that writes their own songs about cranking The Rolling Stones and talking about where they came from? This is not a one trick pony going from the double-time “We Write Our Songs” to the getting more than you bargained for sultry “Love Me Like A Stranger,” this is probably the best “unsigned” country band in Nashville.

8. Graveyard – Hisingen Blues

This was a find while traveling out to Utah to do interviews, stopping it at local indie record shop, Gray Whale and picking up a recommendation. The Swedish rockers are somewhere between first album Black Sabbath and Vincebus Eruptum, Blue Cheer. The recording sounds like it was done on an old well worn 4 track reel to reel with non-Marshalls, more like full blown, old Sound City amps or something. There doesn’t seem to be anything above 8k on this album. It plays like a record found at a garage sale from an old Vietnam era stoner. They are playing this month at Exit/In on January 20th.  The early Black Sabbath slow un-blues of “No Good, Mr. Holden” and stoner boogie, “Buying Truth (Tack & Forlat)” are stand outs.

7. Mastodon – The Hunter

It’s weird to think that a Metal band that was conceived at The Nick in Birmingham and worked its way out of Atlanta, would earn its wings being lauded not only by Metallica but attendees at such indie festivals as Coachella with 2008’s, Crack The Skye, busting out everywhere. It was hard to follow up Crack the Skye which would be their Dark Side of The Moon, but Mastodon do a great job on such cuts as the “Sweet Leaf” groove of “Curl of The Burl” and the Dream Theater flavored, “Octopus Has No Friends.”  

Dedicated6. Steve Cropper – Dedicated, A Salute to The 5 Royales

Steve has the opportunity to pay tribute to guitarist, Lowman Pauling, who was one of the biggest influences on Stax soul as the great era of the Sixties would kick in full effect. The King records office, run by “Duck” Dunn’s brother in Memphis, brought in some of the strongest soul artists of the day from around the country. Booker T. and The MG’s, Otis Redding and many other artists were influenced as the music changed from rhythm and blues to soul. This has an all—star vocal cast from Delbert McClinton on “Right Around the Corner” to Steve Winwood, B.B. (Beale Street Blues Boy) King, Steve Winwood, Lucinda Williams and an A-list that contribute to this project.

5. Gary Clark Jr.  – The Bright Lights E.P.

With some gritty Black Keys meets The Burnside Exploration bluesy soul of “Bright Lights,” kicking off this four song cycle, there is a little Paul “Wine” Jones thrown in here, this Texan, all things, including a little hill country blues, is more of a promise than a full album. It was good enough to make Rolling Stone’s list for the year and earns a place on my list as well. The fact that it is on Warner Brothers makes it really twisted.

4. Tony Bennett – Duets II

With many of the classic icons now “Dust in The Wind,” it really is amazing that Tony Bennett still sings like a prizefighter. Mr. Bennett could hold up everything by himself, but, the interesting match-ups with Mariah Carey, John Mayer (yes, John Mayer), Willie Nelson, as well as Lady Gaga’s best performance to date on “The Lady is a Tramp” makes for an instant standard. The most prized track is Amy Winehouse’ last recorded performance of “Body and Soul.” The Nelson Riddle style strings make this record sit on the top shelf with the best early Sixties era Frank.

3. Kenny Vaughan – V

Kenny shows up on a lot of Nashville records, known as Marty Stuart’s guitar slinger, Kenny takes center stage with The Fabulous Superlatives providing back up, the album rocks as much as it steeps in mystified netherworld Country, blasting off with “Country Music Got a Hold on Me,” stopping mid-point with the instrumental, “Wagon Ride” before ending up in a rockin’ Country church, “Don’t Leave Home Without Jesus.”  Sonically, this has the frequencies in the right place with no high-end ADD busy bee stuff going on. Well done!

2. Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

If I could be in a band right now, this would be it, with only a strong sense of songwriting being the guide this is all over the map with heavy 70’s influenced, “Might Find It Cheap” being probably the best structured song I have heard this year, to influences from accoustified Dylan to southern fried Tom Petty, I think there is a concept going on here, but, more than anything this is worth at least a dozen listens.

1. Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures

We may never know how far Amy could have gone. She absorbed Dinah Washington, Donny Hathaway as well as The Ronnettes with equal grace. Amy not only did some great covers, but, was a songwriter on par with the best. This disc has some raw original versions showing Amy supporting herself on guitar. Amy had all three talents, great voice, great musician and great songwriter. She was a triple threat in a class of one. Amy is the best voice of the last twenty years. This collection takes us all the way from the very beginning on the demo, “The Girl From Ipanema” to mid career, Stevie Wonder influenced, Amy Winehouse penned, “Half Time” to the current torn heart on a sleeve, Leon Russell cover, “A Song For You.” This is a chronicle of a flame that burned hot and way too fast. She should be here now.

Okay, that’s it.  Watch out for Imelda May. She actually played at 3rd and Lindsley this year. Imelda would have been on the list with Mayhem except it is a 2010 release, but, watch out, there is More Mayhem coming out at a Grimey’s near you.

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ stripped down take on the Forties as well as some Ska and Hawaiian music on Smoking in Heaven continues where the last one left. They’re heading for the Big Day Out Festivals in Australia and while not making much of a dent in the States, the recording is a vintage gear monger’s dream. They accurately feel like recordings made in Chicago or Memphis way before Sun.  

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

Heavy in mood and lyric, René Breton by all accounts was meant to be a pseudonym for Ryan Hurtgen and Tobin Sio’s current project in order to free up lyrical ideas and explore free form  poetry that took the band in a whole new direction. Now René Breton is an album, a book and a band.

Asleep in Green, Fifth Ace Records LLC, is as much sharing of how Iridium was discovered to Botswana folk tales and answering the big “why am I here?” type questions.

“I often feel like this Thing that is a huge waste of time, asking questions with no answers, wondering how I fit into the universe.”- (Asleep in Green, Page 2)

The book acts as a framework while listening to the music. Each chapter covering the song topic in what may be a cross between Allen Ginsburg and a college guide to advanced philosophy. This was the brainchild of Ryan Hurtgen’s muse in all things art, from words to drawings to arrangements.

Ryan Hurtgen / Photo- Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

Tobin Sio, who has worked with Ryan for several years as percussionist, engineer and studio gear head, makes for great team work. The collaboration between recording, printing, and publishing a dynamic original score took the team to a new level when Nicole Taher discovered their work and the three formed Fifth Ace Records.

When heard live, René Breton as a four piece band almost seems symphonic and works well whether at Mercy Lounge or The Frist Gallery as an art installation. Even though the two groups are not similar in content, René Breton moves the senses much like The Velvet Underground with Andy Warhol’s Factory turning music into art and art becoming the medium of delivery.

Ryan, singer/songwriter, is somewhere between an intellectual Syd Barrett and the man that Jimmy Page wanted for his new band that would be Led Zeppelin, Terry Reid, a sixties British icon, who turned down the gig and told Jimmy Page to check out Robert Plant, a great singer with Band of Joy. That is Rock and Roll History. The Raconteurs did a spot-on version of “Rich Kid’s Blues.” Pure Terry Reid. Ryan’s voice fits that range more than his contemporaries in Coldplay or Radiohead.

Sitting down with some herbal tea in East Nashville, we began a conversation that could go just about anywhere.

Tobin Sio: The music was pretty much worked out in our practice space and there wasn’t whole lot of demoing going on, we had a whole lot of ideas of songs we wanted to do.

Brad Hardisty/ The Nashville Bridge: Where did you record at?

Tobin (Toby) Sio: It was at a studio that is no longer there called Kosmodrome (Mike Lattrell). It was right on Music Row.

BH/TNB: When I listen to it, I hear this great quality.

TS: I went to school for Engineering.

 BH/TNB: Were you playing with different people at the time?

Ryan Hurtgen: We were playing in a couple of bands with Gabriel Golden and Ross Beach.

BH/TNB:  I know you went through a couple of name changes, what were you called during Next Big Nashville?

RH: The first band was called Telephant. Then we wanted to change the project name because we were never really with that.  I was writing under the pen name René Breton.

BH/TNB: So René Breton was kind of like your “Ramone” name?

RH: It was more like Mark Twain.  I was just using it just for the writing. We were like we need to come up with a name and we were just going to put René Breton on the book of short stories with the music. The name is taken from two French Authors René Char and André Breton.  We had the cover figured out and we didn’t know if it was going to have Telephant on it but it looked better as Asleep in Green by René Breton.

TS: We get people who come up after the show and say, “Who’s René?” and we’re like we are all kind of René.

RH: We actually played a gig in Birmingham and there were people there that were like I was expecting to see a hot blond chick with an acoustic. Anyway, we recorded with Donny Boutwell at Kosmodrome, he’s from Texas.

Tobin "Toby Sio" / Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

TS: Donny is an equally good Producer and Engineer as well as a drummer; he had a ton of drums around the studio. I thought this is great, we are going to have good drum sounds and I’ll be able to use them.

RH: That’s how we were able to record there; I was helping at the time to build the studio. Donny gave us the key at night so we recorded most of the record at night time from about nine o’clock to four AM.

TS: We tracked for a long time, it was a long process. Over a long time when Gabe or when somebody was available and we could align schedules.

RH: We had a portable hard drive and we did the entire piano at Grand Vista on a Steinway.

BH/TNB: I guess good piano is a real key to your sound.

RH: Yeah, then Donny introduced us to David Henry who did the strings.

TS: He arranged all the parts and recorded them. We gave him the charts and he would do a Pro Tools session and we would get them back and we were completely blown away, it was amazing.

BH/TNB: How long have you guys been here in Nashville?

TS: I moved here in ’01 to go to the MTSU Recording program and I officially moved to Nashville in 2005.

RH: I moved here at the end of ’06.

BH/TNB: Were you coming out of school when you moved here?

RH: Yeah, I graduated in ’05. I went to the University of Missouri. I’m from St. Louis.

BH/TNB: There is a little bit of a music scene in Columbia, Missouri.

RH: Definitely a little Screamo and a lot of anarchists that live there. A lot of hippie bands, jam bands. Like Phish more than Widespread Panic.

BH/TNB: When did you start teaming and writing together?

TS: We actually worked at a restaurant together. Ryan was a waiter and I was a busboy there. This is in ’05. I know it was ’05. There is another side story because Ryan came to record in Nashville in 2002.

RH: That was a solo thing. I was making records on a four track in Columbia, Missouri and some people got a hold of it in Nashville and wanted to do a record so they brought me down.  Steve Wilson, Donny Boutwell, that’s how I met Donny Boutwell. When I came back, I met a girl who knew Donny Boutwell and I said I knew Donny Boutwell and she said, “well come by the studio and say Hi!” so I did. I said, “What can I do to get you to record me?” He said he needed a lot of help around the studio and I said “I’m there.”

TS: Before it was a studio, it was just one of those offices on the second floor of one of those Music Row houses so they just completely tore it out, built new floors, made it all acoustically right. Ryan helped out on that. Ryan gave me his record when we worked at the restaurant and I listened to it. I was like this is awesome, we should play together. That’s how we started playing together.

René Breton live at The Rutledge / Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

RH: We partnered together to get the funding to put the project together. Nicole Taher comes from the Publishing world, she had worked with Ron Fair (Record Executive, Music Producer)

BH/TNB: Are you trying to get into the music business L.A. thing, film?

RH: It’s such a changing industry. We have been just going the independent route with hopes of getting a deal, signing with the right group. We distribute ourselves. We’re online.

BH/TNB: It looks like you are doing pretty well with the book concept.

TS: Yeah, the book is doing surprisingly well.

RH: I’m actually surprised how many we are selling because it is quite expensive. I think people want something they can take home. It’s a tangible product that you want to have.

TS: Not just a CD in a jewel case like one of the CD’s you throw on your bed.

RH:  Plus it’s interactive; it’s one of the things I wanted to do.

BH/TNB: I look at it and I see philosophy, folk stories as well as your own artwork. It’s kind of all encompassing.

RH: It’s kind of the thing that inspired me. I’m not a really great musician but I can write a pretty good song. I think being a good artist is being an artist in all kinds of areas. The guys that I admire have come from that kind of background like Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and Bob Dylan to a certain extent to. It is about being well rounded, into writing, reading, the higher road, the voice of my culture. 

BH/TNB: What are your influences musically?

TS: The tracks were a natural groove, no click track, my schooling in music had the influence on my training, and I did the high school jazz training. All my drum teachers were old jazz guys.  If I had to choose a rock drummer it would be Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine because I love his grooves and they’re so powerful, not super flashy, just groove. Also Chad Sexton (311) , he has always been amazing as well as Jeff Hamilton.

BH/TNB: What kind of drum set do you use?

TS: I built my own set. I got the idea from a friend jamming down on Lower Broad (Broadway, Honky Tonks). You choose your own shells; everything and they just drill the holes for you. We have been into making our own instruments. We tore out the guts of the piano and put our own keyboard in there.

RH: You want to have a stage presence of what your stuff looks like. We decided, let’s just have cool instruments. Make it about the music, but the instruments can look good.

BH/TNB: Your music is very visual.

At The Rutledge, Nashville / Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

RH: It is visual, it’s performance and people want to be entertained.

BH/TNB: As far as songwriting?

RH: I play the ukulele. It’s very useful.

BH/TNB: George Harrison used to write on ukulele, and then he would expand on it.

RH: It’s kind of like those songwriters in Nashville that have the first three frets than nothing. It’s simple chords, that’s sometimes how you get to the real bones of a song.

BH/TNB: Lets’ get to the ideas on these songs. Were you studying Philosophers?

RH: I studied Philosophy in College. It’s interesting how this came about because my intentions when I first moved to Nashville were that I wanted to be more of a political artist.

BH/TNB: Kind of like a Tom Morello (Guitarist/Activist) but more folk style?

RH: More like a Phil Ochs. I was really pissed off at the wars and everything. I realized that my opinions were changing and then I realized I wasn’t sure if I agreed with everything I was saying. I said to myself, I need to get into something different; try to do something based more on artistic ideas about humanity, whereas that includes politics but it’s more about the big picture, what love is. I was reading this book at the time called “The Theory of Everything” by Stephen Hawking. He references another theory by Clare W. Graves and it’s called “Spiral Dynamics.” It looks at humankind in these things that are called “Memes” (systems of core values or collective intelligences, applicable to both individuals and entire cultures)”. There is first tier thinking, second tier thinking, all about consciousness. People fall into certain categories in certain areas of their lives. In the green Memes, everybody feels everything needs to be Democracy, everything should be fair, everybody should have an equal say, but, in actuality, they fight with the people in the red Memes that says that people are not equal and you need to conquer people because they can’t take care of themselves.

That is just one aspect; it goes into everything whether it’s love, family or how man relates to nature. At the time I was reading this book, I thought I’d really like to make an album that had every one of these Memes as a song. At the time I met a guy who was a dancer at the Nashville Ballet and we started working on this idea about writing about it. We started working on it at The Nashville Ballet. We had like ten people involved. It was kind of a failure.

BH/TNB: Yes, but sometimes one thing turns into another.

RH: That’s exactly what happened. The ideas I was constructing for this Ballet turned into some of the songs on this album. That morphed into some other songs as the need arised. I was reading about the Surrealists and their methods like Manifestos.

BH/TNB: So what started the process?

RH: I did paintings. There were not any rough sketches or anything.  I would just do it. The aspect of “Automatic Writing” had to do with the songs. Playing a guitar and then just saying whatever I was thinking.  Start off with something automatic like “I’m sailing”, then you had to keep that.

BH/TNB: Kind of like a Mantra.

On stage with the full band / Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

RH: A lot of times like “Botswana”, I had to go back and re-write them so they made more sense. It can make sense. It should make sense and they do make sense.

BH/TNB: It’s more of a “thinking” person’s music.

RH: I’m not saying that is always going to be my method. That is what this project was. Right now, the stuff I am working on is the complete opposite.  It’s very crafted.

BH/TNB: What about “Anne Frank”. What made you think about writing about her?

RH: I was down at The Nashville Library. One day I came across The Diary of Anne Frank and I started reading it. I thought at the time, this had a feeling about it. I could write a song about isolation in the modern world and base it around the idea of Anne Frank. It’s not about being forced into isolation. It’s about choosing it.  How we can create our own little prisons around ourselves.  The idea is from a story about a Japanese girl named “Hikikomori” which translates into “withdrawn youth”.  It’s these kids who get into their computers and they don’t leave their rooms.  They can’t get out.

BH/TNB: Like extreme geekism?

RH: Exactly. It’s like a national problem in Japan.

TS: There are government sponsored boot camps in Japan for youth addicted to the internet.

RH: This is something that has never existed in the history of mankind.  That’s where the original name of the band came from Telephant. It was the idea of global culture.  How is man really changing because we are so connected to each other?  Our attention span is getting shorter. We are constantly getting bombarded with information and it is really affecting us.

BH/TNB: It’s like a couple of years ago; you’d get going with texts with a girl and after a while it was just ridiculous, no verbal communication.

RH: Yes, but now it’s the norm.

TS: It’s de-personalizing. I try to make a point of writing letters now. I have a typewriter from the 1930’s and I’ll sit down and write a letter.

RH: You get that with a Bob Dylan tune.

BH/TNB: Yes, society is all becoming vaporware, like how long is it going to last?

RH: That’s it. A letter you can save. I guess you can save a text of whatever but are you really saving it?  Who does?

TS: My Grandparents don’t have e-mail so I have to write them a letter anyway.

BH/TNB: Okay, so there are four aces in a deck what does the fifth ace mean?

RH:  The fifth ace represents the unanswered question which we all hope we know like the idea of God or religion. It represents the answers to our unanswered questions.  The anchor is important because it represents being stable. It’s like I write in the book, “I’m looking for the fifth ace in order to anchor me.”

BH/TNB: Here was something that made me think from the book, “Dreams are twisted versions of everything that is real in your life.”

RH: Yeah, you wake up thinking, what does this mean?

BH/TNB: Let’s talk about “Botswana”.

RH: I really like that. That song really came out of the idea of automatic writing. All of a sudden I blurted out Botswana. I thought, what about Botswana? Then I went back and did all this research about Botswana. I investigated and found these cultural stories of Botswana being where life began. That is what is going on throughout the album. Like the idea of man being found in the rock of Gibraltar. Gibraltar means the stronghold from where he would rule the world.  The rock of Gibraltar was that fortress that gave you passage into the Mediterranean. Getting back to Botswana, I thought this country has the highest AIDS rate. That’s an interesting fact. I’m getting ecstatically red, thinking that is weird but let’s go with it. Trust it. I found the folk story and I thought I needed to reference the folk story. A lot of the stories in the book are like that. They start out with a thesis and they tie back in a different way. It’s a lot like a dream. It comes with a certain idea and then you go back and interpret it and it ties in with something else. Like when you have a waterfall in your dream. What does that mean?  Am I in danger? Am I about to lose my job? Am I about to fall off? Maybe I’m about to be freed, on top of the world and everything is flowing by naturally.  It’s all this idea of abstraction that I wanted to get.

BH/TNB: Okay how about Robespierre? The line, “One day I was approached with the opportunity to cheat and steal.” Is that a true story?

RH:  No, I became a character. Robespierre was a French revolutionary. He took the Jacobins to oust the King. Soon he realized the power he looked to overthrow, he was becoming himself.

BH/TNB: So, he became what he disliked?

RH: Exactly, the story brings it to a new age and the character is not Robespierre, it can be whomever or whatever you want.

BH/TNB: So what’s next?

RH: I’ll be moving to L.A.

BH/TNB: Will it be René Breton?

RH: Yes.

TS: Ryan will be going first and then I’ll be out there in a few months.

RH: We will be starting on a new René Breton project.  It won’t be about dreams or psychedelia. It will be a lot more grounded. It will be about well crafted songs.  I’m ready to go. I have been in Nashville for six years.

BH/TNB: You’re leaving when things are really starting to change for the Indie thing. It really has only been the last two years that things have really changed in Nashville.

RH: It has and I have really thought about that. I never really got into a “scene”; I spent a lot of time writing. It’s really about just getting into a different city. Asleep in Green is this city, Nashville’s project. I need to get into a different place. Different cities give you different vibes.  You read about different things. You are around different people.  It’s time for change.

Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

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