Archives for category: Robert Plant

backtoback recordRecord Store Day has been a major phenomenon not just for the resurgence of vinyl, but, for musicologists and developing a deeper palette for this emerging generation.

One of the big features are Back-to-Back 7inch releases which have usually been two different bands performing the same song such as this year’s Deep Purple “Highway Star” with the flip side being Type O Negative’s version of “Highway Star.”

One release that could have been improved upon would have been The Stooges’ “No Fun” backed by the cover version by The Black Keyes. The current  relativity of The Black Keyes should not have been overshadowed by The Sex Pistols performance of “No Fun” as the only song performed at their final gig not only in the United States, but, as a band where Johnny Rotten stated ”We will perform one song and one song only…No Fun.”  At the end of the song Johnny is heard saying, “Have you ever felt you’ve been cheated?” That singular performance ignited the Northern California punk scene that brought forth The Avengers, MX-80 Sound and the Dead Kennedys to name a few. The Sex Pistols should have been the flip side. Can you music company tastemakers get it right? We shall see.

Let’s start with some serious suggestions for future 7 inch releases.

(Hyperlinks will get you a listen)

backtoback terry reidTerry Reid – Rich Kid’s Blues  / The Raconteurs – Rich Kid’s Blues

Terry Reid was Jimmy Page’s first choice for The New Yardbirds. Terry was busy enough with his solo career and suggested Jimmy Page check out Robert Plant who was in a band called Band Of Joy. The Raconteurs did a spot on rendition on their second album. This would be an easier one to see happen since Jack White has the label and reissue experience to make this one. “Rich Kid’s Blues” could be a great first introduction to most people for little known Terry Reid in the United States.

backtoback jimiChuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode / Jimi Hendrix – Johnny B. Goode

Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” could be the de facto rock and roll song. It is a 1-4-5 in major chords instead of 7th’s like the blues and the beat was fast. This was the song that any band could sit down and jam to see if things would work back in the 60’s and 70’s. When Jimi Hendrix performed “Johnny B. Goode” in Berkeley, California, it was caught on film and featured on Hendrix In The West and Jimi Plays Berkeley.  Jimi did “Johnny B. Goode” like he did “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, this was a total barnburner not only showcasing his ability, but, there may even be more of a mental back story then you know. Jimi’s mother named him Johnny when he was born while his Dad was away in the war. One of the last places Jimi was known as Johnny was staying with relatives in Berkeley, California before he went back to Seattle and his father legally changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix.  He wasn’t too happy about it. He insisted on being called “Buster” after a character from Flash Gordon.  So, in a way, Jimi is the real Johnny B. Goode in disguise.

backtoback hey judeThe Beatles – Hey Jude / Wilson Pickett – Hey Jude

Okay, while The Beatles “Hey Jude” may be one the longest singles ever and had a great story about Paul McCartney writing a piece of music for John’s son, Julian to help him get over his parent’s divorce, being a great supportive “uncle”’ Wilson Pickett’s version has an interesting twist as well.

It goes like this. Wilson Pickett was in the middle of recording an album at Muscle Shoals Sound in Alabama when the band decided to take a break and head out to go get some food and drinks. Wilson decided to hang out in the studio because he was black and didn’t feel like getting harassed by the locals and Duane Allman who was playing guitar on the session stayed with Wilson because he had long hair and would face some teasing by local folks as well. So, Wilson started jamming on the organ the recently released Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and Duane liked what he was doing, putting a little gospel soul into the British rock ballad. He started laying some guitar on Wilson and by the time the band got back in the morning, Duane and Wilson had the making of one heck of a “Hey Jude” cover. It was not only a great cover, but, is considered the record that started southern rock. The groundswell hit that spawned the Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band and countless other Capricorn Records.

Okay how about some call and response 7inch?

backtoback bear catBig Mama Thornton – Hound Dog / Rufus Thomas – Bear Cat

Okay, we all know about Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”, but, let’s go with the original on this. Big Mama Thornton singing something that Elvis’ probably heard on the “Red, Hot and Blue” radio show in Memphis. Well, Sam Phillip’s over at Sun decided it would be good to put out a response to “Hound Dog” with the cut “Bear Cat.” The only problem was it was too close to the original and “Bear Cat” ended up in a big lawsuit at the time. Now this all happened before Elvis recorded at Sun.

Okay here is a call and response that is a really sly one. Let’s see if you caught this one.

backtoback the holliesThe Hollies – The Air That I Breathe  / Pink Floyd – Breathe

Both songs move at similar tempo and feature some lucid beautiful guitar. The Hollies have almost that slow Eric Clapton sans George Harrison lead while Pink Floyd has the flowing pedal steel going on.  It’s almost like Pink Floyd came up with the idea while listening to The Hollies. They say that Pink Floyd may have been watching film of The Wizard of Oz, but, maybe it was The Hollies as Pink Floyd sang, “Breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care, leave but don’t leave me,” was really lead-n bridge as the first lines after the chorus by The Hollies, “Sometime all I need is the air that I breathe and to love you.”

Hey here is a debate I started.

freecovers.netQueen – Bohemian Rhapsody / Mott The Hoople – Marionette

You really need to know the back story on this to see a link. Queen and Mott The Hoople used to tour together in England before Queen really broke big.  They really got along well and Queen even referenced Mott in the song “Now I’m Here” off of Sheer Heart Attack in the line, “Down in the city just Hoople and me.” One time while enjoying “Marionette” which was written a couple of years before “Bohemian Rhapsody” I was really paying attention to the story line in the song. “Marionette” was similarly like a mini rock opera piece with changes in tempo and dynamics and told the story of a person trying to keep from selling-out, told in first person it starts out, “No Puppet, no liar, won’t bend my lips to wire.”  Before going to the chorus, “Marionette – I Aint One Yet, Teacher’s pet – will you better forget it.” Before the outro, “They gambled, with my life and now I’ve lost my will to fight, Oh God these wires are so tight … I’m just a Marionette.” It is a whole conceived story that could be with a true to yourself musician eventually losing his soul to the corporate music entity, but, the way the story is told is really resembles how Queen went through structuring a “song” like Bohemian Rhapsody” another mini-opera.

I decided to contact Ian Hunter directly through his website and the interactive Horses Mouth page to see if he ever felt Queen got the idea to do “Bohemian Rhapsody” from touring together and Mott doing “Marionette?”  Ian Hunter responded, “I’ve no idea. You’d have to ask them. You know Freddie was kinda like that anyway. They were what they were and we were what we were. We got on famously though. Still do.”

Okay, how about similar riffs?

back to back xX – White Girl / Nirvana – Come As You Are

Okay, the verse parts include similar almost dead-on riffs. X, who was considered the flag bearers of the Los Angeles punk scene, included “White Girl” on their second critically acclaimed album Wild Gift in 1981 while Nirvana slowed the riff down a little and featured “Come As You Are” on their second album for major label Geffen, oh, I mean DGC. While Nirvana did do a song called “About A Girl” I could never find a cover version of “White Girl.” The part where Nirvana sings, “No, I don’t have a gun,” is almost like X’s tag of “She’s a white girl, but I’m living with a white girl.”  Kurt Cobain described “Come As You Are” as lyrics about “people and what they’re expected to act like”. “White Girl” was John Doe’s ode to The Germs’ bassist – Lorna Doom.  John was dealing with attraction and good ol’ Catholic guilt being married to Exene.  While, he may have cheated a little “mentally” it was not John’s “Norwegian Wood” since Exene knew what it was all about at the time.

backtoback black sabbathRed Hot Chili Peppers – Give It Away / Black Sabbath – Sweet Leaf

Okay, hey, Red Hot Chili Peppers sampled “White Girl” in one of their songs off of Mother’s Milk, so, were they just funkin’ thing up a bit while listening to Sweet Leaf off Masters of Reality? Hey Rick Rubin was producing the thing. Rick was also working with Slayer around the same time and he just produced the new Black Sabbath album. Rick was known for mashing things up like sampling Led Zeppelin on Beastie Boys tracks. Okay, here is my presumptive back story. Rick throws Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” up loud and lets the Chili Peppers jam with it until they come up with their own funky masterpiece.

Dude, you don’t want me running your record company because I’ll be too creative with these back to back 7 inch records and your mind won’t be able to handle it.

Well, the “Iko,Iko” super secret release was not bad.

–          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

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

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

Andy May and Kenny Malone - photo courtesy, Kevin Schlatt Photography

There were all sorts of events both musical and public ceremonies going on around Nashville last Sunday. It was a slow time getting up and I wasn’t really up for the pomp and circumstance, but, I was up for some good music.

The Country Music Hall of Fame has a schedule of free demonstrations, concerts and films. September 11th sounded interesting with Andy May and Kenny Malone doing a “Guitar and Drum Demonstration” set in the Gibson Room at 1Pm.

This was an opportunity not only to listen to an interesting set but to ask questions and get some interesting answers and advice by a couple of masters.

Andy May is a guitar and mandolin player as well as a singer, songwriter, and music educator. Andy has won the guitar grand championship at the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention (Union Grove, North Carolina) and he has appeared with Brownie McGee & Sonny Terry, Merle Haggard, Nickel Creek, Mike Seeger, Pete Seeger, and others. He is a regular at Merlefest .

Kenny Malone is a percussionist who has performed or recorded with Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and others. 

Kenny Malone, not just a drummer, but, a master percussionist, brought world beat to Country Music years ago. One of the first records that he used Djembe drums and other percussion was with Don Williams. Kenny talked about how he likes to read the lyrics before he reads the music so that what he performs on the song doesn’t distract from the lyrics.

Kenny showed his newest set-up, five Djembe drums set up in a full pentatonic scale.  Kenny stated, “Several cultures independently found the pentatonic scale on their own. The pentatonic scale would be the black keys on the piano. When drums are tuned to a pentatonic scale, there is no discordance with the music being played and you can hit any drums together and they blend.”

Andy showcased his versatility not only by playing his own songs such as “Love is The Greatest Gift of All” off Blackberry Jam, on a Martin Acoustic through a Roland Cube which sounded 10 times bigger than it was, but, took requests from the audience to maximize what Andy and Kenny could do between Guitar and Percussionist, going everywhere from “Roll Over Beethoven” to “Star of the County Down” sung by Andy’s daughter.

Kenny showcased a new percussion piece for the first time which he decided to call “9/11,” in honor of the date.  Andy and Kenny both talked about deciding on doing the gig together on 9/11.   Rather than being about what happened on 9/11, it was a time to memorialize the 10th anniversary and remember that American Music is a blend of different cultures. Drums coming from big brass band European military music.

“The snare came from the battlefield. They needed something that would crack through everything. The snare was used to give directions on where to shoot or fight. It was code tapped out on the snare. The percussionist brought nothing into battle but a snare drum. It was dangerous work. Of course there is the Scottish drum and fife corp.”- Kenny Malone

Kenny- “When I was in the military, playing music was part of the job. When we passed a Russian ship in international waters we had the responsibility to play the national anthem.”

Andy commented about music being a mixture of roots in traditional folk melodies mainly known through older gospel music and religious traditions of different cultures.

Kenny made the remark that we are constantly blending musical forms noting that he was playing traditional African instruments as well as a snare from military tradition while Andy was playing an instrument that came out of Europe in various forms hundreds of years ago.

Kenny has been doing the acoustic guitar/drum duet thing for a while with Darrell Scott (songwriter, multi-instrumentalist) at Hippy Jack’s, the Americana Music Festival and the Folk Alliance in Memphis.

Kenny will be playing with Darrell Scott to celebrate Darrell’s new Country music release at the Station Inn on October 5th and 6th. This is a show not to be missed.

Before leaving The Country Music Hall of Fame, I stopped into the Ford Theater to see Bill Monroe’s appearance on Austin City Limits back in 1981 and 1986 and this was a tribute special aired in 1997. It was cool to see him and Ralph Stanley on the big screen. I guess 9/11 can be a day when we celebrate American culture and what we have given to the world. Music is the great communicator and no ideology or extremism can take away what we have been able to accomplish by blending this stew we call America.

Night Ranger, before lift off

My friend, Steve in Wichita, who may the biggest Night Ranger  fan in the world, insisted I go to their unplugged set at the Hard Rock Nashville at 7Pm. I was glad I went.  Not so much for the rare acoustic interpretations of their own songs but whatever came to mind.

Night Ranger w/Mark Volman - The Turtles

Kelly Keagy, drummer, is a Nashville resident and I have caught one of his unplugged sets he did with Mark Slaughter and Kip Winger (both Nashville residents) before but this featured six tequila shots each as well as a guest walk up of The Turtles – Mark Volman and a Night Ranger run through sing along with 200 of their closest Nashville friends of “Happy Together.”

It became a challenge to see what could be played on the guitar.  One of the biggest surprises was when Jack Blades asked Brad Gillis to tell the story about what happened when he took over the Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Oz tour after Randy died. Randy was killed in a small plane crash mid-tour and Brad came in and filled the guitarist shoes after a short audition to finish out the “Diary of a Madman” tour.

A little Deep Purple "Highway Star"

There were banners like “Randy Forever” flying in the crowds and he was met with the challenge of matching one of the greatest guitarists of the day when Brad was a virtual unknown outside of the California Bay Area.

Sharon Osbourne, who managed Ozzy at the time decided to give Brad a bad time. She said, “Oakland is cancelled.” Brad- “Why??” “Lack of ticket sales.” Sharon said with a frown, then after a moment, she smiled and said, ”just kidding, it sold out in three hours.” Brad was asked to stay on but was anxious to get back to record Night Ranger’s first album. This lead to an outrageously good acoustic rendition of “Crazy Train” with Brad Gillis ripping the Randy lead part on a Taylor. He got a roomful of cheers for that one.

Kelly singing The Doors "Roadhouse Blues"

After a few Tequila shots, Kelly celebrating his Birthday, began to reveal his age when he talked about seeing The Doors in 1968. After guitars started churning “Roadhouse Blues”, the band went full swing, on a great tribute to The Doors with Kelly doing his best Jim Morrison.

It was over the top moments like these one of which featured a full on Ritchie Blackmore ripping – Deep Purple “Highway Star” mid-song bust out as well as the fact that this was a benefit for families dealing with children with drug problems, You’re Not Alone  Organization, that made the cozy room above the Hard Rock Café feel like a private party for Kelly Keagy and 200 of his best Nashville friends.

Music is one of the things that pulls us together as a country, it helps to identify those special moments in our lives, for Night Ranger it was like Déjà vu. “Ten years ago on 9/11 we were playing with Journey in Detroit. Now we are still on tour with them. A tour that started in 1982…ha-ha…”- Jack Blades

Night Ranger will be opening for Journey and Foreigner tonight at Bridgestone Arena.

Kelly Keagy's copy official set list

 – 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