Archives for category: Indie Music

On an unusually hot June night, Dead Fingers from Birmingham, Alabama, played the Basement underneath Grimeys New and Preloved Music, in a stripped down Trio with “really married” Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor backed by minimalist drums of Alan Rosser, as part of their mini-tour last Sunday the 24th.

Dead Fingers Opened up with the classic Taylor song, “Bonnie and Clyde” from his 2005 Brash Music release, Tragic City,  before going into the line up from the first Dead Fingers – Fat Possum release.

Playing to an intimate crowd including some friends who made the drive from Birmingham, Kate and Taylor matched song for song on “Closet Full Of Bones”, “Another Planet” with the different blend of almost Spanky & Our Gang meets southern Americana, Dead Fingers managed to break down a lot of barriers between styles and periods to create their own matchbox of sound.

Taylor stuck mainly to finger picking almost Piedmont style most of the night going from the bluesy slide of “Lost In Mississippi” to primitive western a la Rose Maddox and The Maddox Brothers rather than the current Fleetwood Mac radio country for “On My Way.”

There was a hint of classic Taylor Hollingsworth writing when going into “Against The River” riffing.

Kate and Taylor looked real comfortable together as well as baby bump makes three, Taylor and Kate, who have been married for a while now, are expecting a girl towards the end of the year.

It looks like the child will have music in her DNA taking in the tour from the stage, listening to musical vibrations.

Kate comes from a big Birmingham musical family, with sister Maria Taylor , an artist on Conor Oberst’s  Saddle Creek Records , as well as brother Macey Taylor who has played Bass for Maria, Taylor, Conor Oberst and several other bands and music projects.

Kate is no stranger to the stage, having played in Maria Taylor’s touring band on drums as well as other instruments and supporting vocals.   

Mystic Valley Band at Coachella 2009, Macey on bass, Taylor on Acoustic

Macey and Taylor both played in the two album project that Conor Oberst ended up putting together, The Mystic Valley Band where Taylor sang at least one of his own originals at every tour stop.  They ended up playing some big shows in 2009 including Coachella. Following that project, Taylor released the acoustic project, Life With A Slow Ear, Team Love Records in 2009.

Dead Fingers became the project as Kate and Taylor started taking life on together as a couple.

Kate’s brother Macey at Coachella / Photo- Brad Hardisty

Taylor, even in the stripped down mode, showed plenty of flash, using a harmonizer pedal to get some cool neo-pedal steel type leads going on the country material, and some intense slide work through the night.

Taylor Hollingsworth singing “Air Mattress” at Coachella 2009 / Photo – Brad Hardisty

Dead Fingers included a new song in the set that will be on the next release which they are scheduled to begin recording in the near future.

The duo shows great depth and versatility in their songwriting able to take off in different ways which especially works well in Nashville where, cult classic country, blues and roots rock are part of the whole Indie scene.

Dead Fingers will be back in Nashville on July 12th at The Mercy Lounge opening up for Jason Isbell (formerly of  The Drive-By Truckers) & The 400 Unit. Definitely a lot of Alabama in that show.

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

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

Shakedown at The Majestic

Brooklyn, New York’s Shakedown at The Majestic (SATM) heard about Liahonaroo  and decided to take a shot at performing their first show in the South.

Liahonaroo will take place April 20-21 at The Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon.

Shantell Ogden

The event was organized by a group of Mormon musicians and music lovers, not as an event to preach, but a family-friendly drug and alcohol free music festival.

Shantell Ogden, event organizer believes it will resonate with all Christians regardless of denomination.

“I have a friend in a punk band that plays clubs regularly, and because of the environment and age restrictions his daughter hasn’t been able to see him perform,” she said.

The name, Liahonaroo, is inspired by a compass called the Liahona that a Book of Mormon prophet Lehi used to lead his family through the wilderness, ‘roo’ has become synonomous with ‘music festival.’

SATM, a Sugar Ray meets Peter & Gordon retro Sixties mix, decided to make the submission and made it into the lineup to make their first appearance in the South.

As Taylor Mintz, percussionist of SATM, puts it, “We’ve got a little bit of the old harmony like The Beatles, The Zombies and The Beach Boys. We are like a band from Long Island that went out to California, learned how to surf and then made a record.”

The group is getting ready to release their sophomore effort in a couple of months.

“Run For Your Life,” “Idiot or Liar” and especially “Recipe of Life” are songs that are really getting the crowds going in New York at places like Sullivan Hall and DC Lounge. These songs will be on the new release.

Aaron Kupferberg, Powerpopaholic.com says about SATM, “We get catchy, danceable, stick-in-you-head songs courtesy of this energetic unsigned Brooklyn band.  The harmonies and minor chord shifts on “ Bria” are sweet and compare well to Weezer.”

Acklen Park - photo - Melody Hood

SATM joins an eclectic Liahoanroo lineup that includes Music Row chart toppers, Acklen Park, a duo experiencing success with their recent country radio hit, “Great American Song,” positioned to be one of the country rock summer anthems this year.

Kelcy Lee

Also performing in the nearly 30 acts is country band HWY 52 and singer/songwriters, Kaitlyn Cannon, Kelcy Lee, Kimberly Knighton and Joseph Barrios. For a full line up go to the Liahonaroo website and Facebook pages.

Joseph Barrios - photo - Kaht

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

Darrell Scott at Grimey's, Jan. 31, 2012

Darrell Scott celebrated the release of Long Ride Home, what he describes as his most Country album to date with an in-store appearance at Grimey’s on January 31st. Darrell Scott  who has been nominated for a Grammy three times as well as collaborating with writers such as Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Guy Clark, was enjoying a rocking duet in the rear of the store.

Darrell reminisced about working with his father in his teens back in California saying that two of the songs on the CD were written on a retreat to Big Bear in The San Bernardino Mountains with his Dad when he was sixteen. The two tracks, “The Country Boy” and “You’re Everything I Wanted Love to Be,” have that pure California Country swagger having been written before mechanical bulls and Urban Cowboy.

On a personal note, this work could not have come at a more important time. After the completion of the project, Wayne Scott was the victim of a car accident in Corbin, Kentucky on November 25th, 2011. The project became a loving tribute to his father and the musical heritage that has been passed on from father to son.

Having been able to hear the new songs with a full band at Station Inn a few months back, it was exciting to hear the final work, probable his most collaborative yet, working with his long time percussionist Kenny Malone as well as Patty Griffin and Guy Clark to name a few.

In the midst of The Band of Joy tour, I had the opportunity to interview Darrell, not wanting to go after the obvious, “How is it working with Robert Plant?” question, I decided to look at where Darrell was at working as a “utility” player, a man with all kinds of string instruments, a gun slinger.  It reminded him of how it was playing in his Dad, Wayne Scott’s band back in the Inland Empire of California.

That interview turned out to be a harbinger of his next album, returning to his roots, turning full circle. The article was set to publish in a national publication but was cut before publication at the end of 2010.  In a way, the article fits more what Darrell did with this project even more than what he did with Robert Plant.

I now present the never before published work.

Darrell Scott: From California Honky Tonks to Band of Joy

            Darrell Scott was back in Nashville for some down time from touring with the Robert Plant project Band of Joy named after the band Robert and John Bonham were a part of before starting Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page.

Brad Hardisty: Are you working on some song demos since you’re back at home?

Darrell Scott: I should be but with the tour and everything, I just can’t think about it right now.

BH: You don’t get much of a chance to be the sideman?

DS: I am so busy with my own songs that I’ll play for friends but that is about it.

Darrell had been touring solo in support of his recent release A Crooked Road, a collection of personal post cards about family, his children, and relationships. It was a personal effort by a well known Nashville songwriter that has written songs that have been recorded by a diverse roster of performers.

BH: Your songwriting has that real depth to it, reminds me of Jimmy Webb (“Galveston”, “Wichita Lineman”)

DS: Oh definitely, my two favorite writers are Jimmy Webb and Guy Clark, but I like all kinds of well written Country, Pop, whatever.

Darrell has had dozens of songs recorded by Major Artists. In fact the song “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” a tribute to songwriter, Harlan Howard was recorded by several different artists including Brad Paisley, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Red Molly and even former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, Zakk Wylde.

Darrell was born on a Tobacco Farm in London, Kentucky, the son of Wayne Scott who passed down a love of Country Music. After a few economic based moves Darrell’s family settled down in an area known as “The Inland Empire”, San Bernardino County just 60 miles east of Los Angeles but a world away from the Sunset Strip and glitz of Hollywood where back in the day there were still remnants of Nashville West.

DS: I played Honky Tonks, Bowling Alleys whatever in my teens. A lot of times we were the backing band for Country Artists that were traveling the circuit like Ernest Tubb (The Texas Troubador) or we were the headlining band.

BH: A lot of people don’t realize all the Country Music that came out of California.

DS: Yeah, I mean all those people that came out from Oklahoma and the south for work brought the music with them.

BH: So you were gigging a lot?

DS: I would end up sitting at the Pedal Steel with a Telecaster in my lap.

BH: A lot of music gear in Country music came out of California.

DS: Leo Fender, the Telecaster and his Electric Steel Guitars. Then there was Paul Bigsby (The Bigsby Vibrato), Mosrite (guitar builder for Joe Maphis) and even the Dobro Company was out in California, Guy Clark worked for Dobro.

Darrell was a “Nashville Triple Threat” before he moved to Tennessee, developing his skills as a Performer, Musician and Songwriter. He had an unreleased New York Singer/Songwriter album done that his label never released before deciding to move to Nashville

BH: So how did you end up in Nashville?

DS: My wife was as a school teacher, I figured I could keep the music going and housing was cheap. I really didn’t want to move here at the time, but, it was the logical decision.

Darrell brought a lot to the table when he moved to Nashville in 1991, becoming a go to session musician and stellar songwriting. Eventually he was able to re-record the never released New York album thirteen years later. Theater of the Unheard garnered Album of the Year at the 2005 Independent Music Awards.

B H: I know Robert Plant spends a lot of time in Nashville. Did you know him before joining the Band of Joy project?

D S: No I didn’t. In fact he had never heard of me. Buddy Miller made the recommendation and Robert wanted to hear me play before making a decision. They flew out to San Francisco to see my set at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (Oct 4, 2009 at 11AM on the Banjo Stage).

BH: On Band of Joy you’re kind of like Dave Lindsey “the utility guy” that can play anything with strings.

DS: I didn’t know what to bring, so I brought everything including my fretless Banjo and Accordion. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. We just had a short time booked over at Woodland Studios (in East Nashville) to see what would happen.

BH: A couple of the tracks especially “House of Cards” and “Central Two-O-Nine” remind me of Led Zeppelin III.

DS: I wouldn’t know. I don’t know much about Led Zeppelin. When I play it’s my own interpretation. It is what I would do.

BH: That reminds me of when Jerry Lee Lewis was recording “Rock and Roll” for Last Man Standing, Jimmy Page tried to tell Jerry Lee he was playing the rhythm wrong and he said this is the way I play it. He had never heard the Lep Zeppelin song before.  The band is playing some Led Zeppelin on this tour; I always loved “Tangerine”

DS: Yes, we’re playing “Tangerine” and “Misty Mountain Hop”. But, we are playing a lot of different things live. We really are becoming a band out on the road. I mean the album experience was phenomenal, but, we are really becoming a great band.

BH: It reminds me of how Led Zeppelin really gelled on the road and you can tell the difference between the first two Led Zeppelin albums. Are there any plans for another album?

DS: No, no plans. It could happen but who knows. Robert is a moving target; he doesn’t like to look back. He is always thinking forward.

Darrell seemed excited to get back out on the road with Robert Plant/Band of Joy, having gone full circle he is back at the pedal steel with a Telecaster cradled in his lap just like playing with his Dad and his brothers back in California. The only difference is that he is touring the world with Robert Plant and the cream of the crop of current Songwriter/Musicians from Nashville, Tennessee.

BH: So when you’re done what’s next?

DS: I have been working on a couple of projects and it could go either way. I have wanted to do a classic country album pre-70’s style, but, I also have a songwriter album done.

BH: If you had to describe Band of Joy what would that be?

DS: Two words, Buddy Miller and organic. The thing was totally organic. If it had not come together it would not have happened. There was no strategy. We had such a short window and it was incredible.

Buddy Miller put together a band to support Robert Plant in his current musical path. Darrell is leaving this weekend for another six weeks of touring with a planned stateside return of Band of Joy next year. Darrell enjoys being a part of such an original sounding band, a master musician, songwriter and performer in his own right, the future is wide open and full of promise.

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

Acklen Park, Nashville skyline, Photo- Melody Hood

 Acklen Park kicked off the radio launch of “Great American Song” on Otter Rapids Music with co-writer, Shantell Ogden, at The Nashville Downtown Indigo Hotel on January 24th. It was a low key evening with friends for a song that has already taken off on radio.

The single was released a couple of weeks early to selected stations and was included in the “Starting to Rumble Facebook Face Off,” at Thunder 102. After going up six times against other new Music Row Charts singles and winning, the song was retired undefeated and included into regular rotation a week before the official drop date on January 26th. Marcum Stewart states, “We ended up winning six face offs in a row. We recorded the most votes in Thunder 102 history.” Andrea Villareal, the other side of Acklen Park joins in, “The first round we went up against Warner Brothers artists, Her & Kings County. We also won against Bucky Covington who has been out for a couple of years now. We couldn’t be more excited. “

The same is happening everywhere the song is turning up. Most recently “Great American Song” won another contest at KBOE in Oskaloosa, Iowa by votes from local listeners. As an independent release, the success of the single will be dependent on the ears of smaller market DJ’s that have some flexibility as well as listeners calling in and requesting the new single.

“Great American Song” is really a summer anthem, originally intended for a later release,but, Acklen Park’s radio promotions team were anxious to release the feel good upbeat anthem that goes hand in hand with celebrating our freedoms laying a foundation for the potential of a big summer hit.

Marcum was given some serious advice, “Our Promotions team made a lot of really valid points and they’re the pros. They do this every day, their advice was, “Well, honestly it takes a good seven to eight months to really get big action to even have a chance to even make it to the top 30 so if you even want a chance to do that by the time its seven months from now it’s going to be July anyway. “We took these thoughts to our Producer, Chris Utley and he said, “I couldn’t agree more.”

Acklen Park, Benchmark, Great American Song, background vocal session, me on the back row.

“Great American Song” was recorded at Benchmark Sound, one of the best studios on Nashville’s Music Row today with Chris Utley in the Producers chair. There was one big difference going in this time around. Although, the last album released early last year was a great project, Chris Utley and Acklen Park decided to kick it up a notch with some of Nashville’s best session players that have performance credits on Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban and other big time records. The sound is phenomenal with great lyrics, upbeat Country Rock with a solid hook.

Acklen Park has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the video for the song. In its first week, the campaign has reached 20 percent of its goal. Kickstarter mainly known for funding Indie Rock releases is starting to see some Independent Country Artists such as Kelly Willis looking to fund projects. It gives the opportunity for fans to be backers and even be a part of a project.

Marcum has a clear picture of what they want to do, “Alright we need to make a video so how about we just go with that. We need funds to make the video. Radio station promotion costs a lot of money. Publicity costs a lot of money. Videos cost money so we just kind of went with what Kickstarter would allow us to do. I’m actually happier with that. I think that people are going to enjoy doing the video more than radio promotion anyway. We’re going to enjoy that more. We can allow people to be in the video.”

As they say at NSAI, “Every great song will find a home.”

Photo Courtesy - Meldoy Hood

Country fans can make this a big song if they want to the old fashioned way by supporting their local Country station and requesting “Great American Song,” purchasing the song for themselves and being a part of “The Making of The Great American Song Video.”

If you want to be a part of the making of the video you can go to their Kickstarter page by clicking here I want to be a part of The Making of The Great American Song Video by Acklen Park.

– 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

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

Rick Carter at BAAM Fest 2011 (c) 2011 Thomas B. Diasio

This year BAAM FEST, Birmingham Arts and Music Festival, took over where the highly successful Secret Stages Festival left off. Whereas Secret Stages was a mini-SXSW for regional Indie acts, the list of Artists this year was a high octane cross section of Hip Hop, Funk, Jazz, Rock and everything in-between.

Milyn Sattierfield-Royal & Toullouse,BAAM Fest 2011 (c) 2011 Thomas B. Diasio

BAAM FEST was started a year ago to take the place of the now defunct City Stages.  Although City Stages featured national recording Artists with a mix of regional and local acts thrown in the mix, BAAM FEST has taken over the task of putting together a virtual Pub Crawl of the best of Birmingham.

Birmingham has a diverse scene and just about every genre and subgenre was well represented.

Rescue Dogs, Stillwater, BAAM Fest 2011

Almost every club worth its weight was involved including The Nick, Bottletree, Metro Bar, Workplay, Stillwater Pub, Speakeasy as well as some of the newer venues that have grown out of the re-generation of the business district such as Steel.

This year, there was not a VIP shuttle which made it hard to get around to some areas without hopping into a car. This worked for some clubs and not so much for others as it made it easy to stay downtown and hang out around Rogue Tavern, Steel and Metro Bar. The crowds seemed to be heavier in the business district.

Rickie Castrillo, Rojo, BAAM Fest 2011,(c) 2011 Thomas B. Diasio

If you had been drinking, you would be hard pressed to venture by car up to The Nick or Zydecos. This is something to think about in the future.

Phillip Hyde / Caddle BAAM Fest 2011 (c) 2011 Thomas B. Diasio

It may just be by word of mouth, but some of the more stellar well known locals such as Rick Carter and Rollin’ In The Hay were a definite go to as well as the virtually created at The Nick, hard rockin’ white trash gothic style of Caddle.

Tim Boykin (Carnival Season, Shame Idols, The Lolas, Annexed Asylum) rolled out a full set of his heaviest incarnation yet with full on Zen Death Metal, Throng of Shoggoths at The Nick. Isn’t Tim the guy who did a cover of Flamin’ Groovies’ “Shake Some Action?” Oh that’s right, if Tim can think it, he can play it. From what I hear Throng of Shoggoths makes Annexed Asylum look like Starland Vocal Band.

J. Grubbs & Southern Phoenix, BAAM Fest 2011

On the Hip Hop end, J. Grubbs and Southern Phoenix did a Rap meets Southern Funk meets blues thing at Steel on Friday night. Birmingham artists have been mixing it up with Hip Hop ever since The Agency were doing their Punk-Reggae-Rap thing at Marty’s back in 2005. Has it been that long?

Jon Poor Band, Steel, BAAM Fest 2011

The Jon Poor Band has been stirring it up with his blend of “Swamper – second – generation meets Jimmy Buffet” sound with the College scene for a number of years. He didn’t disappoint on Friday night at Rogue Tavern. Friday night  Rogue finished off with a Jazz set by The Chad Fisher Group.  Chad didn’t stop there; playing to a packed sardine set at Stillwater Pub the next night with local legend Heath Green and their project Fisher Green.

Heath Green at Stillwater/BAAM Fest (c) 2011 Thomas B. Diasio

Fisher Green started off with the Joe Cocker version of “The Letter” before some of the standard Heath Green set numbers over the last few years then doing a couple of songs from their soon to (finally) be released album.

The Grenadines at Metro, BAAM Fest 2011

As far as Indie goes, The Grenadines were in full bloom with a late night set on Friday.  The Grenadines with the recognizable scene girl from the last few years, especially at Model Citizen shows, Lauren Shackelford in her fringe dress rocked the house. Metro Bar has some problems sound wise now. It was great that they took all the weird booths and stuff down, but now it sounds like one of those restaurants that are loud with dishes and silverware clanging around where everybody is yelling and still can’t hear a thing.

Metro Bar could really help itself by doing some ceiling treatment even if it were to hang about 20 flags from the 20 foot ceiling to dampen things a bit.

Neo Jazz Collective, Bob Marley, Jah,Civil Rights Institute,BAAM 2011

On a tip from Sound Engineer, Danny Everitt, I actually got up before noon to go catch the Neo Jazz Collective at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute performing a complete Bob Marley set. What a great group of Kids. They sounded great from horns to guitar to vocals that featured Carlito and a trio of girls doing great back up and lead vocals. It was probably one of my favorite sets of the weekend.

Chad Fisher at Stillwater/ BAAM Fest (c) 2011 Thomas B. Diasio

I stuck around and watched The “Freedom Riders” Documentary after their set. That should be required viewing for all the schools in Alabama and Tennessee.  It was interesting to watch when the Nashville students from Fisk University and friends decided to get involved when the Northerners gave up Birmingham. It was a gutsy move. In fact, they left for Birmingham during finals week. That group of Fisk University students did not receive amnesty for what they did until last year, when they finally got their diplomas four decades later.

Fighting Meeces, Zappa time, Stillwater, BAAM Fest 2011

Saturday kicked off at Stillwater Pub with Fighting Meeces performing Frank Zappa’s “Peaches in Regalia” and Rescue Dogs performing Grateful Dead style originals before throwing in Pink Floyd’s “Time.”

Ricky Castrillo Trio, Zydeco, BAAM Fest 2011

After Hurricane Katrina, Birmingham gained a New Orleans treasure, Rickie Castrillo, who left New Orleans and made Birmingham home. In that time back in 2007, Rickie was doing a residency at Marty’s and everybody from Chris Fryar (The Allman Brothers Band, Zac Brown Band) to Daniel Turner took a turn to sit in and get to know Rickie and his unique style.  Rickie was well represented at BAAM FEST both at Rojo in a solo set and also a full band set at Zydeco.

rear- Daniel Long (Percussion, Rescue Dogs, The Agency, Furthmore), Daniel Everitt (Bassist, Sound Engineer), Lauren Long (Artist), front- Bobby Bruner (Bassist, Rescue Dogs) at Metro

There were so many groups to see. My story is only one of a thousand. When I look at the calendar, I wish I had seen Kendra Sutton, Jesse Payne, The Magic Math (featuring Van Hollingsworth), Mollie (when are you coming back to Nashville?) Garrigan and Daniel Turner, Clay Conner, Jubal John, Voices in the Trees and who knows what.

Three Feet Deep, Five Points, Southside

After a late night set, I stopped by Makario’s for Hummus and Chicken. If that wasn’t enough, while making my way through Five Points, I watched with amazement as Artist, 3 Feet Deep, was creating waves, birds and Orbs out of spray paint. I am now a proud owner of a 3 Feet Deep original.

This could be the best Pub crawl all year long. Can I get an “Amen?”

3 Feet Deep, artwork, Five Points News rack

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

If you have seen all the new films at The Belcourt this month and want more Indie in your life or maybe you just can’t wait for Harmony Korine’s sequel to TRASH HUMPERS then head south 180 miles to beautiful Birmingham where The 13th Annual Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival will be happening between Aug. 26th-28th.

Birmingham you say. Yes I do.  The cool thing about this is that it’s not all happening in a multiplex. The crowning jewel of theatre’s in the south, the 2,200 seat newly restored Alabama Theatre built by Paramount Studios in 1927 to play Paramount films is one of the venues.  The theatre has retained that original flavor and it is where bands like The Black Crows want to play when in town.  It is the equivalent of The Ryman for Birmingham.

The Alabama Theatre

All nine venues are within walking distance in historic downtown. The downtown area is a scene of new restaurants, clubs and loft apartments similar to what is being done in the gulch area of Downtown Nashville.

For those who appreciate a Southern bent, Director Jon Bowermaster’s SoLa: South Louisiana Water Stories was being filmed in Southern Louisiana, documenting the environmental concerns and as they were beginning to wrap up, the gulf oil spill happened.

“The day we arrived – in 2008 – there was a sizable oil spill on the Mississippi River.  Of course we could not have predicted that as we were in post-production, the worst oil spill in U.S. history would erupt in the same waters. So we stopped finishing the film and went back down with cameras.”- Jon Bowermaster 

Jon Bowermaster

John Henry Summerour decided to cast locals when shooting SAHKANAGA. Shot on location in Northwest Georgia, it was done with homegrown talent.

 John Henry: “I was tired of seeing southern films that indulge in the clichés of big-haired white women teetering in designer heels while sipping mint juleps and dispensing dime store wisdom with sass to spare, and the other extreme of trailer parks where kids eat mud and wrestle pigs.  That’s not the South where I grew up.”

John Henry Summerour

With a decidedly Southern flavor, there are over forty films in three categories, Documentary, Narrative Features as well as Shorts.  The shorts can sometimes end up being a feature at Sundance a year or two down the road.  There are panel discussions as well as awards.

While in town, check out some local bands. The indie scene has been alive and well since the 80’s with The Nick being one of the first Alternative Music Venues, called by Rolling Stone, “The CBGB’s of the South.” Other clubs such as The Bottletree have started up in recent years with much success.

The Grenadines / Photo- Ben Webb

Two of the bands that are getting national buzz recently are The Grenadines and The Great Book of John, who just released their first full length record on Birmingham’s own Communicating Vessels label, can be found at Grimey’s.

What about food? Right in Southside is Surin West with great Thai dishes and Sushi. Birmingham also has a conglomeration of Mediterranean eateries, some open all night, near the UAB campus.  Most notably, Makario’s Kabob and Grill, which opened a couple of years ago in what used to be a tacky sixties style Chinese takeout location. A fresh coat of paint, plenty of tile, modern Middle Eastern art and you have some of the best Hummus in the world. There isn’t anything bad on the menu, but, my favorite is Hummus with Grilled Chicken tips. Load it up on fresh Pita and you’re in business.

Celebrate The Year of Alabama Music with a visit to Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival.

– 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