CONTENTS FRANK MULLEN 38 REMEMBERING The world lost Georgia music photographer
BABYFACE PHOTOGRAPHED BY FRANK MULLEN
Frank Mullen far too soon, at age 48, on May 9 of this year. In honor of this singular talent and irreplaceable friend, Georgia Music presents a small gallery of Frank’s finest work. His passing has left a gaping hole in our hearts and in future issues of this publication, as his proficiency and vision will be difficult to replace. By James Kelly
GROWN: ZAC BROWN’S SLOW, STEADY STEPS TO STARDOM 28 HOME Dahlonega has proven surprisingly fertile ground for nurtur- garnered him his first certified Gold album, The Foundation. ing musical fruit, hosting many notables amongst its 4,000 residents. But perhaps none embodies the Southern spirit of this small town as much as Zac Brown, whose bluegrassinfluenced brand of booze-soaked country-rock recently
Brown grew up steeped in Appalachian culture, living a traditional country life and ultimately, spending more than 20 years preparing for the sudden onslaught of success. By Bret Love
SISTAHS: MEET THE LADIES COOING ATLANTA’S R&B SCENE TO THE TOP 44 SOUL Thanks to world class producers and writers like Jermaine Algebra Blesset. Because of the city’s creative fertility and Dupri, The-Dream, Tricky Stewart and Keri Hilson’s songwriting group The Clutch, Atlanta has turned into an enduring capital of R&B, particularly for female performers like Ciara, Keyshia Cole, Janelle Monae, India.Arie and rising star
KHUJO GOODIE 47 Q&A: He’s been off hip-hop’s radar screen for a few years, but as one-fourth of Goodie Mob, Khujo (born Willie Knighton, Jr.) was one of the architects of Atlanta’s hip-hop scene. With the 1995 debut Soul Food, Goodie Mob introduced international audiences to the sound of the Dirty South, infusing rap music with heaping doses of gospel and soul. Now, after
6 QUARTERLY REPORT
16 FRONT PORCH
The latest from studios and stages around the state and beyond, from the latest curveball from DJ Danger Mouse to musical superstars cultivating the next generation.
A visit to Blakely, Ga.’s Magnolia Music and Medicine Show.
18 BIZ Georgia’s Ticket Alternative: building success one show at a time.
12 BACKSTAGE What’s current and what’s on the horizon at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
cutting-edge sounds, the sound of R&B music is being defined in Georgia, with other regions of the country copying and playing catch-up. By DeMarco Williams
Q&A: KHUJO GOODIE enduring trials and setbacks, Khujo has returned with a new project called Willie Isz, a collaboration with producer Jneiro Jarel. In this conversation, he discusses the new album, his new outlook on life and that eagerly awaited Goodie Mob reunion. By Bret Love
30 ROAM What do cheesy B movies, tricked out hot rods and unhinged garage rockers have in common? It’s Atlanta’s Drive Invasion, celebrating 11 years this Labor Day weekend.
46 EDUCATION 24 GET TO KNOW Jamie Barton, Scotty Barnhart and Kai Reidl
Guitars Not Guns gives kids in foster care something to hold onto.
48 CALENDAR 2 | GEORGIA MUSIC
50 REVIEWS Bloodkin, CAN!!CAN, Ray Charles, Deerhunter, Patterson Hood, King Khan, Mama Lucky, Manchester Orchestra, Prefuse 73/ Diamond Watch Wrists, Asher Roth, Sam & Dave, State of Man, Todd Snider, Van Hunt, Wood Brothers, Zoroaster
58 CURTAIN CALL Remembering Eva Mae LeFevre.
EDITOR’S NOTE used to think local musicians were hideously underpaid. But that was before I started hanging around with writers. I quickly learned in a “whose wallet’s slimmer” contest, a writer usually will prevail. Sure, the movie Almost Famous romanticized the quest to be a rock ’n’ roll journalist, but the cards don’t fall so easily in real life. If you want to write about music today, consider that you’ve got a better chance paying your bills if you play in an ’80s cover band, touring themed restaurants, than you do if you write insightful features and informed reviews.
What a shame. The only writers I know with health insurance are those married to someone who has coverage; I can’t even think of a writer pal driving a car manufactured in this century. Even worse, no music writer has ever been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. All these inequities aside, the truth is writers have been—and always will be—an invaluable and irreplaceable element of Georgia’s music scene. They direct us to the sounds, shows and stories we need to know about. They reveal truth, create buzz, champion underdogs and break more than a few spirits with their honesty. For most of our contributors, writing is a full-time job and our readers are more the richer each quarter as they experience the fruits of this underappreciated and underpaid labor pool. Many Georgia writers have been significantly affected by the downsizing—and, in some cases, folding—of newspapers, tabloids and magazines. Gigs for music writers are gravely scarce. So it’s more important to me than ever that Georgia Music magazine survive and thrive in this unpredictable economy. Were I to have my way, a donor angel would drop from the sky with enough money for me to double the size of the magazine and give twice as many assignments to the many talented Georgia writers who need gigs. While that particular scenario may be as unlikely as any rock journalist singing “Tiny Dancer” on a tour bus with his rock star heroes like in Almost Famous, I do believe that with the support of the readers who appreciate this magazine and its dedication to content and diversity, we can, in turn, continue to support talented writers and artists each quarter. This issue marks the fourth anniversary of Georgia Music and it is dedicated to all the freelance writers and artists who have embraced our mission and brought to life the state’s legends, landmarks and unsung heroes. They are, themselves, unsung heroes. Help us keep their assignments coming by subscribing today for only $15 or donating to the newly established Writers and Artists Fund. Thanks to all for four great years!
EDITOR Lisa Love firstname.lastname@example.org MANAGING EDITOR Reid Davis for Tastemaker Communications email@example.com MUSIC EDITOR Bret Love firstname.lastname@example.org ART DIRECTOR Rob Herrema for Mudhouse Design email@example.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Holly Beretto, Candice Dyer, Chris Hassiotis, Jewly Hight, Palmer Houchins, James Kelly, Steve LaBate, Austin L. Ray, Donny Screws, Lee Valentine Smith, Alan Sverdlik, Bill Thompson, DeMarco Williams PUBLISHER Georgia Music Hall of Fame Foundation ADVERTISING Chris Horne firstname.lastname@example.org 229.308.1207 WEBSITE GeorgiaMusicMag.com PODCAST InsideGeorgiaMusic.com SUBSCRIPTIONS $15/year, $25/2 years GeorgiaMusicMag.com
Georgia Music Magazine PO Box 1073, Macon, GA 31202 Tel: 478.741.2020 Fax: 478.751.3100
In addition to serving as Georgia Music’s editor-in-chief, Lisa Love also is the executive director of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon.
4 | GEORGIA MUSIC
© 2009 Georgia Music Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. Content may not be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. ISSN 1939-8158
L-R: DAVID LYNCH, MARK LINKOUS (SPARKLEHORSE), DANGER MOUSE
‘Danger’ ahead Former UGA student Brian Burton—aka Danger Mouse—always seems to serve up his music with a twist. From his copyright-law skirting Beatles/Jay-Z mash-up The Grey Album to his collaboration with Cee-Lo in Gnarls Barkley he seems to delight in keeping listeners guessing. Now the mystery continues: due to a record-label dispute, the Danger Mouse / Sparklehorse collaboration (featuring artwork and occasional vocals by filmmaker David Lynch, as well as vocals on one song by Athens fixture Vic Chesnutt) Dark Night Of The Soul is reportedly being released independently as a package containing a blank CD-R. The assumption, of course, is that you can find the tunes to fill the CD via diligent online searching.
6 | GEORGIA MUSIC
DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS ARTISTIC EXPERIMENT Georgia superproducer Dallas Austin finally steps in front of the mic with his debut as an artist, 8 Daze A Weakend, billed as the The Dallas Austin Experiment. The previously delayed album is currently slated for a June 30 release (at press time) and features guest appearances by P-Funk’s George Clinton, Goodie Mob’s Big Gipp and rising star Novel.
OUTLAW COUNTRY? NOT REALLY. Country-pop newcomer Jessie James (hailing from Warner Robins) makes her Island/Def Jam debut on July 28 with her self-titled album. James seems to be taking dead aim at the youth audience, scoring an opening slot with The Jonas Brothers and hitting the road with the popular trio beginning in late June.
TRUCKIN’ The coming months bring an armload of Drive-By Truckers
recordings (in addition to frontman Patterson Hood’s fine solo outing, reviewed on p. 50.) On July 7, New West Records will release Live From Austin, Texas, a document of the band’s appearance on Austin City Limits, and also plans to release The Fine Print, a 2003-2008 rarities collection. In addition, the band has been busily recording with David Barbe at Chase Park Transduction studio in Athens for its first official full-length on new label home ATO Records. According to Barbe, the band has recorded 23 songs and will pare down the list to determine the album’s final tracklisting.
TWO ‘SERMONS’ FOR PASTOR TROY Atlanta rapper Pastor Troy continues to pack his productivity into clustered salvos. After having released three albums in 2006, he’s apparently at it again in 2009, with Love Me, Hate Me set for a
When Athens’ newest hotel opens its doors in early September, it will offer more than just a place to crash for the night. Located on the corner of College Avenue and Strong Street on the north edge of downtown, Hotel Indigo Athens, a boutique hotel, will feature 130 eco-luxury rooms, an art gallery and a music venue. “Since music and art are at the heart and soul of Athens, it seemed natural to incorporate them into our concepts of green technology, sustainability and community outreach,” says Barry Rutherford, one of the principals with Rialto Property Partners, the Atlanta-based firm behind the project. “We’ve teamed up with the UGA Music Business Program, the Lamar Dodd School of Art and Mercury Art Works to integrate these elements into our plans.” In addition to its penchant for music and art, Athens also is environmentally conscious and Hotel Indigo Athens anticipates achieving LEED®-certified “gold” status, which should meet the approval of locals. “This means we meet stringent standards for sustainability and efficiency,” says Rutherford. “Innovative design is also a pillar of the LEED process, and our building design mirrors a covered bridge which our architect, Atlanta based Surber, Barber, Choate and Hertlein envisioned as bringing an element of North Georgia rural landmarks into an urban setting.” The interior, by New York’s Ellen Hanson Designs, also marries rural and urban in a funky mix dubbed “Southern farmstead modern.” Rotating works by Athens artists will be on display throughout the property and curated by Chris Wyrick and Sandi Turner, co-owners of Mercury Art Works and longtime nurturers of the local arts scene. The Rialto Room, an in-the-round music space, will feature intimate performances and serve as a live lab for students of the UGA Music Business Program. “We will be both booking and promoting it as more of a listening-room type club along the lines of the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville,” says
PHOTO COURTESY RIALTO PROPERTY PARTNERS
Athens’ Hotel Indigo builds on local music foundation
Bruce Burch, the program’s director. “We think it will complement the other venues, not compete, and with the Hotel Indigo, it just strengthens Athens’ position as a music tourism destination.” Of course, no sensible business in Athens can discount people in town to party before and after Dawgs games and neither has Hotel Indigo. The Rialto Club, adjacent to Hotel Indigo and accessible by elevator, is a private club featuring a luxury lounge and bar, music exhibits and performance space. Hotel Indigo is a boutique brand within InterContinental Hotel Group’s 4,300 global properties. “We chose IHG because they allowed us to custom design the hotel and to fully integrate the local flavor of Athens,” says Rutherford. “We have created something that the city will embrace and that will provide both cultural and economic benefits for the entire community.” – CHRIS HASSIOTIS & LISA LOVE
releases his full-length debut, Futuristic Leland, on Aug. 18. The lead single, “Ain’t I,” which has been making waves at radio since last December, features guest appearances by Dro and Grand Hustle head honcho T.I.
TIME AND TIME AGAIN Grammy winner and Columbus native Robert Cray releases his 18th album on Aug. 11. Entitled This Time, the album serves as a calling card for a list of summer and fall North American tour dates for the blues-rock veteran, which kicked off June 26 and run through Oct. 24.
SOMETHING TO CROWE ABOUT
THE FUTURE, TODAY Grand Hustle rapper (and Yung Dro protégé) Yung LA 8 | GEORGIA MUSIC
The Black Crowes will release new album Before The Frost… on Sept. 1, with a companion album, called …Until The Freeze, to be given away with an included download code. Both were recorded over a series of five nights at Levon
YUNG LA PHOTO BY ZACH WOLFE
July 14 release, just a bit more than a month after the June 9 release of Ready For War.
Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y. All the new material was performed and recorded in front of an intimate audience of the band’s fans. A limited edition vinyl release, featuring all 20 tracks from the sessions, also will be available on September 1.
Records) and executive produced by the lightning rod hip-hopper himself. First single “Greener” features soul man Anthony Hamilton and was produced by Chris Scholar.
COMEBACK? Troubled pop star Whitney Houston attempts a comeback with a still-untitled record due out on Sept. 1. Fellow Georgia residents Akon and Sean Garrett are on board for songwriting and production.
STYLE FOR MILES
PHOTO BY APRIL MOORE SKELTON
Fonzworth Bentley is a step closer to seeing his debut album finally released. Bentley, Atlanta native and the host of MTV’s From G’s to Gents, will release CoolOutrageousLovers– OfUniquelyRawStyle (“COLOURS,” get it?) The album will be released on Kanye West’s GOOD records (distributed by E1 Music, formerly Koch
MISC. FIRE! In an eerie echo of Athens music history, The Georgia Theatre
GEORGIA THEATRE FIRE
Film, Video & Digital Entertainment:
Georgia’s film, television, music and video-game productions are through the roof lately. In the first four months of 2009, Georgia has hosted 11 feature films, two TV series and one TV pilot; a 1,300 percent increase over the same period in 2008. Two new Warner Brothers’ TV series, Vampire Diaries and Past Lives, have committed to Georgia and will begin production soon. Two other series will be scouting here shortly. A total of 22 feature films or TV movies have been produced in Georgia in the last year. Actors working in Georgia have included Sissy Spacek, Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Karen Black, Woody Harrelson, Malcolm McDowell, Timothy Olyphant and Abigail Breslin. The movie Five Killers began production in April featuring Ashton Kutcher, Tom Selleck, Katherine Heigl and Martin Mull. Sandra Bullock’s new football film, entitled The Blind Side, also features Kathy Bates and Tim McGraw. Six new feature films and television projects are in the queue, including Walt Disney’s Miley Cyrus movie, entitled The Last Song, starting in Savannah in June, Tyler Perry’s new film Why Did I Get Married, Too? and Terry Collis’s indie feature The Hardest Hitter cranking up in Macon in July, and two more reality TV series beginning production soon. Robert Redford is rumored to be considering Savannah for a new feature film to begin production this fall. William H. Macy will be in Georgia soon to begin preproduction for his newest movie entitled Keep Coming Back. And remakes of two very famous films are on their way to the Peach State, with one being Footloose, starring Chace Crawford of TV’s Gossip Girl. Finally, a famous superhero may be the subject of a Georgia-made movie this fall (you’ll have to wait and see who it is) with several more large projects starting up later this year. In short, Georgia’s tax incentives are working. At 30 percent, we offer one of the nation’s most competitive incentives packages, placing us in the country’s top five. When you couple our incentives with all that Georgia has to offer, including nonstop flights to and from almost anywhere from Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the state presents one heck of an overall package for producers of entertainment content. Producers from Hollywood or New York working in Georgia can comfortably go home on the weekends and be back at work in our state on Monday morning. Georgia’s entertainment sector is one of the few industries in the state that’s actually growing during these difficult economic times. Hundreds of new jobs have been created for Georgia workers, expanding our labor pool and increasing the number of productions we can serve simultaneously. Many Georgians working elsewhere are returning and other industry professionals are relocating. We’re pursuing additional workforce development opportunities and training programs. Ten new suppliers have 10 | GEORGIA MUSIC
MILEY CYRUS IN HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE
located in Georgia in the last several months, including two equipment rental companies, one trucking company, one catering company, four tax-credit brokers and two payroll companies. The Georgia music industry makes some of the sweetest sounds around, and is a force to be reckoned with. Our goal is to surpass Nashville and claim the No. 3 position in the nation by 2020. The Georgia music industry employs 9,500 artists and workers in over 1,000 companies, creating an economic impact of $2 billion annually. Georgia was the backdrop for 44 music videos in 2008, with 37 Georgia artists nominated for 2008 Grammy Awards. Five Georgians took home awards in 10 categories including Jennifer Nettles, T.I., CeCe Winans, the Blind Boys of Alabama and Lance Ledbetter. Many Georgia artists are crossing over into producing or starring in Georgia-produced TV shows and series or appearing in national television network productions. The BET Network has committed to producing their weekly gospel music show, entitled Sunday Best, entirely in Georgia at Turner Studios. The show was formerly produced in Los Angeles. Georgia has the most competitive incentives in the nation for video game development and it’s starting to pay off in a big way. Investment in video-game productions has totaled over $150 million in the last four years with an economic impact of $268 million. Two massively multi-player online video games are currently in production by Georgia game companies with budgets in the tens of millions of dollars each. We expect much more growth from this sector. We’re definitely building a strong set of entertainment industries here in Georgia. The annual economic impact of Georgia’s combined entertainment industries is estimated currently at over $4 billion. On behalf of Georgia’s over 20,000 entertainment industry workers in over 1,300 Georgia companies, I thank you all very much for your hard work and continued support. Bill Thompson is Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Division.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY
TAX INCENTIVES SPUR BUMPER CROP OF PRODUCTIONS BY BILL THOMPSON
burned down on June 19, reminding many of the January 1982 fire at Tyrone’s O.C., site of R.E.M.’s first shows. As federal and state authorities investigated, management began selling limited edition T-shirts (georgiatheatre.com) to help employees rendered suddenly jobless as well as to help recovery and rebuilding efforts. The venue was insured and at press time, owner Wilmut Greene hoped to rebuild. Previously booked shows have been parceled out to other local venues.
ership are taking absolutely unprecedented steps to sustain one of Atlanta’s and the nation’s most precious cultural assets,” says Ben Johnson, ASO chairman. “I hope their collective, thoughtful actions will be an example to our volunteer leadership, our many generous and supportive patrons and the community at large to take their own steps to recognize that even in the darkest financial hours, the arts must sustain us and must be sustained by us.”
COSTELLO’S MUSIC LIVES
Live Nation and Aaron’s Inc. have formed a three-year partnership that gives Aaron’s the naming rights to the former Lakewood Amphitheatre in Atlanta. The venue now is called Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood. The facility, owned and operated by Live Nation, can accommodate close to 19,000 people and hosts about 20 concerts per year. The venue had
Sean Costello may have passed away last year, but the artist’s music remains very much alive, as a new album from New York-based vocalist Jenni Muldaur demonstrates. On Muldaur’s recently released Dearest Darlin’, Costello was the primary guitarist in the band, which also included Brad Jones (Elvis Costello, Jazz Passengers) on bass and Lenny Pickett (Tower of Power, SNL band) on sax.
LLOYD WANTS OFF LABEL After three albums with Irv Gotti’s The Inc., R&B singer Lloyd is ready for a change of scenery. The 23-year-old singer/songwriter says there’s “no bad blood” between him and The Inc. but feels his relationship with the label has “run its course.” (The label has ended its three-year-partnership with Universal and has yet to ink another major-label deal.) “I'm ready for a change,” says Lloyd. “… I just feel I need to take more control over my career and get a fresh start. Hopefully Irv can understand my position.”
PAINFUL CUTS AT ASO Facing a challenging economic environment and funding shortfalls, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has announced costsaving measures amounting to $4.2 million over the next four years. Everyone at the ASO, from musicians to executives, is sharing the pain, which includes salary and health benefit cuts. “Our musicians, our staff and our professional lead-
AARON RENTS SOME NAMING RIGHTS
been called Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre since 2001.
ROBERTS TO 1600 PENN. Atlanta-based singer/ songwriter Doria Roberts visited the White House in May as part of a group of like-minded artists for a session entitled “Art, Community, Social Justice and National Recovery.” Roberts was asked to join because of her 15-year-plus artist/activist career advocating for underserved communities.
STUDIOS IN A NUTSHELL “What recession?” seems to be the mantra of local music factories, with things as busy as ever. Atlanta’s Southern Tracks continues to serve as homeaway-from-home for star producer Brendan O’Brien, hosting album tracking sessions for Pearl Jam, Billy Talent and Killswitch Engage. Athens’ John Keane Studios hosted Vic Chesnutt recording vocals for a new Rickie Lee Jones album as well sessions for Brantley
Gilbert, who mixed across town at Chase Park Transduction. Chase Park, in addition to the Drive-By Truckers, also hosted local heroes The Whigs as well as mixing sessions for Thayer Serrano and Gift Horse. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Silent sound hosted a mixing session for London, and tracking sessions for Japanese artist BoA (with Sean Garrett), Elton John and Usher, who also put in some work at Doppler Studios. Doppler, for its part, hosted vocal tracking sessions for Bobby Valentino as well as tracking/writing sessions for former Disney Cheetah Girl Adrienne Bailon (with BryanMichael Cox and Johntá Austin), Fabolous, Shawty Redd and original Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday. Finally, Doppler hosted a handful of lucky students for a Red Bull Music Academy presentation, which featured Cox, the Mizell Brothers, Maestro, Joi Gilliam and Brandon Thomas.
BACKSTAGE AT THE GEORGIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME Mission: The Georgia Music Hall of Fame preserves and interprets the state’s rich musical heritage through programs of collection, exhibition, education and performance. The museum fosters an appreciation for Georgia music and stimulates statewide economic growth through a variety of dynamic partnerships and initiatives. OUR MUSIC IS GEORGIA MUSIC IS ON DISPLAY AT STONE MOUNTAIN PARK’S MEMORIAL HALL AND MUSEUM THROUGH LABOR DAY.
Georgia Music at Stone Mountain Park The Georgia Music Hall of Fame proudly partners with Stone Mountain Park to enhance the park’s Summer at the Rock promotion. In addition to the new Journey to the Center of the Earth 4D Adventure, visitors can take in the Hall of Fame-organized exhibition Our Music Is Georgia Music inside Stone Mountain Park’s Memorial Hall and Museum or enjoy the brand new tribute to Georgia musicians during the famed Lasershow Spectacular™. Our Music Is Georgia Music offers an entertaining overview of the many Peach State artists who have made an impact on different genres of music including gospel, rock ’n’ roll, soul, rhythm & blues, jazz & swing, country and classical. Artifacts on display from the Hall of Fame’s collection represent musicians including Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Chet Atkins, Brenda Lee, Ludacris and more. In a budget-conscious vacation season, Stone Mountain Park’s Family Value Pass saves visitors 20 percent on four oneday tickets and four meals. Overnight options include two Marriott hotels with Family Escape Packages available and the largest campground in Georgia. Traditional attractions including the Sky Ride, Scenic Railroad and Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard provide entertaining options as do new offerings, including Sky Hike, which is the nation’s largest adventure course, the Big Thinkers Science Exploration Show and Wonders of Nature in the Dogwood Theatre. As a bonus, Stone Mountain Park mountain members will receive free admission to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame through Dec. 31. For additional information on the privileges of mountain membership or on Summer at the Rock, visit stonemountainpark.com. 12 | GEORGIA MUSIC
MUSIC IN KIDS’ EDUCATION First Saturdays with Pam Blanchard Pam Blanchard, who leads the award-winning Athens-based Sunnyside Up Band, continues her First Saturday programs at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame through August. From noon until 2 p.m., Blanchard leads children ages 2-6 in singing, dancing and movement. The MIKE program is included with museum admission, $3.50 for ages four through 17 and free for children under four.
Second Thursday Performances Return in October The popular second Thursday series of MIKE performances featuring musical artists from Young Audiences/Woodruff Arts Center returns Oct. 8. During the school year, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame presents two back-to-back performances at 10 and 11:30 a.m. on the second Thursday of each month. Geared for school groups, the programs are included with museum admission and include a guided tour. Space is limited; to inquire about upcoming performances or reserve space, contact Jared Wright at (478) 751-3334 or email@example.com.
PAM BLANCHARD PERFORMS MUSIC “FOR KIDS AND THEIR ADULTS” EVERY FIRST SATURDAY AT THE GEORGIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME.
Nashville Portraits on display through July 10
PHOTOGRAPHER JIM MCGUIRE
PHOTO BY LEAH YETTER
Sixty black-and-white portraits of American singers, songwriters and musicians remain on display at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame through July 10. Nashville Portraits: Photographs by Jim McGuire features photos shot over a period of 35 years and includes images of Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris and Georgians Norman and Nancy Blake, Tut Taylor and the late Hall of Fame inductee Chet Atkins. Nashville Portraits was organized by the Morris Museum of Art, Augusta.
CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS All programs are $3.50 and include museum admission.
ON EXHIBIT Through July 10 Nashville Portraits: Photographs by Jim McGuire
Live music performances for kids, plus activities and refreshments.
VISITING THE HALL OF FAME: Admission
SECOND THURSDAYS Second Thursday each month beginning October 8, 10 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.
Adult: $8, Children (4 - 17): $3.50 Children three and under: Free Seniors & Military/College students with ID: $6 AAA members with card: $7
During the school year, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame presents two back-to-back performances geared for school groups
Hours: Tues. – Sat. 9 – 5
The Georgia Music Hall of Fame is located in Downtown Macon. Call 478.751.3334 or visit georgiamusic.org for more information. SUMMER 2009 | 13
UPCOMING EXHIBITS July 18-June 6, 2010 Johnny Mercer: Too Marvelous For Words
FIRST SATURDAYS Saturdays through August, Noon-2 p.m. Pam Blanchard
Friends Hosts Annual Awards in September 2009 GEORGIA MUSIC HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES ANNOUNCED Friends of Georgia Music Festival, Inc. presents the 31st annual Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards Show and Banquet on Sat. Sept. 19, 2009, in the Thomas B. Murphy Ballroom at the Georgia World Congress Center. To purchase tables or tickets, contact Diane Alexander of Friends of Georgia Music at (770) 491-9494, ext. 15.
Each year, Georgia’s Senate Music Industry Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Mullis, and Friends of Georgia Music Festival, Inc., a private, nonprofit corporation presided over by Dr. Bobbie Bailey, select the inductees into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The 2009 honorees by category include:
Performer: Collective Soul The multiplatinum rock band from Stockbridge, Ga. achieved mainstream popularity in the early ’90s with hits including “Shine,” “December” and “The World I Know.” Collective Soul has enjoyed seven #1 singles and sales of over 12 million records worldwide.
Non-Performer: Peter Conlon As president of Live Nation Atlanta, a division of the world’s largest live music company, veteran promoter Peter Conlon produces and markets major concerts in the most prominent venues in the Southeast. He first began promoting concerts at UGA and after graduating, produced events for the Carter administration. Later, he founded Southern Promotions, an entertainment production company that he and fellow inductee Alex Cooley nurtured into one of the most successful in the nation, eventually selling to SFX in 1997. 14 | GEORGIA MUSIC
Group: Third Day With Christianity as its foundation, the rock band Third Day has earned numerous accolades including 23 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and three Grammy Awards and sold over six million albums in the last 15 years.
Songwriter: Bryan Michael-Cox Just 31 years old, Atlantan Bryan Michael-Cox has already broken The Beatles’ record for most consecutive No. 1 hits which led to Billboard naming him Producer of the Year. This designation goes on a mantle that includes three Grammy Awards and multiple ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Awards for his writing and production credits with Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige and Usher, among many others.
Pioneer: John L. (Johnny) Carson As the grandson of pioneering country artist and Hall of Fame inductee Fiddlin’ John Carson, Johnny Carson (shown at left with Little Richard) has carved his own place in Georgia’s music industry. He has managed, produced and promoted artists, founded the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame and serves as president of the Atlanta Society of Entertainers. Each year since 1970, he has produced a tribute event to his grandfather where he awards fiddles to deserving students.
Posthumous: Roy Hamilton In the 1950s, pop star and Leesburg, Ga. native Roy Hamilton generated two #1 hits, “Unchained Melody” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” eight charting pop songs and more than 50 singles before his untimely death of a stroke in 1969 at age 40. His deep baritone and gospelflavored singing are said to have influenced Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson and the Righteous Brothers.
Posthumous: Berry Oakley PHOTO ABB ARCHIVES
As a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, bass player Berry Oakley left an indelible mark on American music. His thunderous, melodic grooves laid the foundation for the band’s fusion of rock, blues, jazz and country. Oakley died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Ga., in 1972.
Posthumous: Shakir Stewart After graduating from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Shakir Stewart experienced a meteoric rise in the music industry, quickly climbing through the ranks of Hitco Music Publishing. He ascended to the position of senior vice president of A&R at Island Def Jam Music Group, where he signed Beyonce Knowles and developed both Young Jeezy and Sean Garrett. Stewart died in 2008 at the age of 34.
BLUE MOTHER TUPELO CLOSING THE SHOW WITH HOUSE BAND THE MEDICINE MEN
Magnolia Music and Medicine Show ‘GOOD FOR WHAT AILS YA’ BY DONNY SCREWS
unny Martindale closed her eyes and randomly placed her finger on a Georgia map. Flying over the Peach State in a commercial jet, she decided to move her family where her finger landed and, upon opening her eyes, discovered Dodge County. A year later she was director of the Eastman-Dodge County Chamber of Commerce. Things have a way of finding the tiny town of Eastman, in Central Georgia. From the meteorites that fell from the sky 34 million years ago to the people all over the world journeying there to search for tektites, the rocks formed by the impact, Dodge County is a journey’s end for many. Now there’s yet another reason to find Eastman. The brainchild of artist and musician Karl Hilliard, the Magnolia Music and Medicine Show now is bringing thousands to the Magnolia Theater.
For years Hilliard tried different formats and musical ideas with mixed results. But in 2008 he found the alchemy he’d searched for: A live radio show with quality Americana music, skits, comedy, cooking and other offerings. The key was a crackerjack house band that could play the music Hilliard heard in his head. When the curtain opened at the first Magnolia Music and Medicine Show, the band, dubbed the Medicine Men by guitarist Cliff Lee, had to regain its composure after being astounded by the packed house.
The Medicine Show theme is one that works really well because it lends itself to great visual interpretation and gives people a feeling of happy, simpler times. Along with the regular entertainment, the Medicine Show brings in touring acoustic and alternative country acts, which have proved to be a hit both with audiences and musicians.
Close to home
THE MEDICINE MEN ONSTAGE 16 | GEORGIA MUSIC
Up until now, for a quality production, music lovers have had to travel to Atlanta, or at least Macon, hours away. Most music fans went to local honky-tonks situated in country settings where, as one local says, “they check you at the door for a gun or knife. If you don’t have one, they give you one.” Magnolia provides an alternative. Right now the momentum is on the upswing, with crowds flocking into the theater every other month. So far, neither bad weather nor a stormy economy has kept the loyal flocks from their bimonthly pilgrimage. And at each show there are new fans. “I never knew this kind of show could exist here,” says Chester’s Earl Cannon. Professor and filmmaker Roger McLeod sat in with the Medicine
Men recently and became a convert as well. Featured artists on the show include alternative country acts like Shannon Whitworth, Redline Express and master musician Will Kimbrough. All music, acting and performances are done live. As musician Danny Howard comments, “Musicians are daredevils.” Every featured guest has commented on the show’s unique atmosphere. “We do everything we can to make them feel welcome,” Hilliard says, “including an invitation to our after-show party, where the music and hospitality continue late into the evening.”
Back to the future The Medicine Men also were born from the mind of Hilliard, who’d been performing in an acoustic duo with his friend Josh Sheffield. The show needed musicians who could play music ranging from Leadbelly to the Jayhawks, from Ry Cooder to Dylan. These were songs that all musicians wanted to play but until now there was no venue for such genres in a rural town. This writer was recruited from Rocky Creek and singer-song-
THE MEDICINE MEN writer Lee Jessup’s band, and Cliff Lee was borrowed from Deepwell. Rounding out the group is keyboard veteran Ronnie Cadwell and harmony vocalist Cindy Shelton. Since the show’s success, demand for the Medicine Men has taken them all over the state. One performer describes the Magnolia Music and Medicine Show as a hybrid of A Prairie Home Companion and the Grand Ole Opry, where the action never stops. Steve Harrison, a local attorney, emcees the show in the style of a 19th-century medicine-show entrepreneur. After all, it’s probably safe to say that middle Georgia hasn’t seen the likes of this in 150 years. “I think the Medicine Show is a success for a number of reasons,” Karl Hilliard says. “We provide quality entertainment in a variety show format at a very reasonable price. This is a combination that works really well together for a two-hour show. No single aspect of the night's entertainment commands the stage for a long period of time and this plays well with our audience. They like the fact that if one thing doesn't suit their fancy, there's something else coming almost immediately afterwards that keeps the pace of the show moving. The Medicine Show theme is one that works really well because it lends itself to great visual interpretation and gives people a feeling of happy, simpler times.” That, along with great music, has proved a winning combination. gM Shows are scheduled at the Magnolia Theater in downtown Eastman on the last Saturday evenings of July, September, November, January, March and May at 6 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information, call (478) 374-4614 or visit magnoliamusicandmedicineshow.com.
SHINY TOY GUNS’ SISELY TREASURE (L) AND JEREMY DAWSON PERFORM AT THE EARL
Keep the customer satisfied THE TIMELESS LOGIC BEHIND TICKET ALTERNATIVE’S RAPID RISE BY PALMER HOUCHINS
hen I first meet Iain Bluett, co-founder and president of Ticket Alternative, an Atlanta-based independent ticketing and printing company, news broadcasts are flush with music industry magnates and megastars testifying before Congress in support of the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger effort. Bluett is decidedly uninterested, almost flippant, about the proceedings because his mind is already made up. While Ticketmaster is indeed the corporate behemoth of music ticketing, and Live Nation the premier promoter for most major venues and artists, Bluett and his cohorts at Ticket Alternative have found a healthy business in supporting the little guys—the local clubs showcasing independent and unknown talents. “That’s where music is born—in these small venues, like the ones we work with,” Bluett says in the company’s Midtown headquarters. “They’re not any less important than the amphitheatres and arenas.” Since its founding in 2003, Ticket Alternative has rapidly grown into one of the nation’s leading independent ticketing companies, printing 500,000 tickets per month and working with 150 venues across the country, as well as several large annual events like the Decatur Beer Festival and Taste of Atlanta. Bluett also has watched the company expand from its original staff of two—Bluett and his partner Jamie Dwyer—to a staff of 16 and a satellite office in the United Kingdom with an additional three employees. As the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger talks escalated, Bluett and his colleagues found themselves as one of the leading voices for independent promoters and artists. So, in February, taking a cue from the Obama election playbook, Ticket 18 | GEORGIA MUSIC
Alternative launched the Campaign for a Ticketing Change, a survey intended to reveal ticket buyers’ true preferences. They found that over 92 percent of responders would prefer lower convenience fees, rather than more retail ticket outlets. The response was an overwhelming endorsement of Ticket Alternative’s business model, one that relies heavily upon online sales and low convenience fees, over Ticketmaster’s penchant to open outlets at a host of big-box stores and charge much higher convenience fees. “We really just wanted to prove that lower service fees and better customer service can go a long way in building a business like this,” Bluett says.
‘We can do better’ In fact, it was that same impulse for a more customer-friendly approach that spawned Ticket Alternative in the first place. Bluett is a veteran of the Atlanta music scene, having played in local band Film then launching the online Atlanta Music Guide. When he and Dwyer, themselves both live music lovers, became increasingly disappointed in their experiences with other ticketing companies, they decided they could do it better on their own, and Ticket Alternative was born. “At first it started with us going to clubs like the 10 High and just begging them to let us list their events,” Bluett says. “If they did, we just promised them we’d promote the hell out of it.” And the pair made good on those promises, as more and more clubs turned to Ticket Alternative for their ticketing needs, at least in part because of their extra promotional muscle. “Their marketing arm has really helped us out,” says Patrick
PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUN, WHAUN.COM
ties they also happened to own like Atlanta Music Guide, to spread the word. Soon, clubs across Atlanta were taking notice. "Ticket Alternative is a driving force behind ticket sales for Vinyl and The Loft,” says Brandon Mize, talent buyer for Rival Entertainment. “They’re easy to work with and have a great knowledge of the venues they work with, always going above and beyond just selling tickets.”
‘How do I get to The EARL?’
IAIN BLUETT (L) AND JAMIE DWYER
At first it started with us going to clubs like the 10 High and just begging them to let us list their events. If they did, we just promised them we’d promote the hell out of it. Hill of The EARL in East Atlanta, which has relied on Ticket Alternative for three years. “They want to sell tickets just as bad as we do.” In the company’s early days, just like now, Bluett and Dwyer focused on the web to promote the shows, taking advantage of the relatively cheap medium, as well as existing online proper-
More than anything, Bluett suggests it’s Ticket Alternative’s commitment to the overall customer experience that differentiates it from a corporate entity like Ticketmaster. The company operates a customer service call center out of its office where they field a wide variety of requests from ticketholders, ranging from what time a band starts to where to park at a certain venue. “Customer service is really in the forefront of what we do. In some sense, our customer service is an extension of the venue we are selling tickets for, so we want to make Ticket Alternative not only a cheaper place to buy, but a better overall experience than other companies,” Bluett says. Because of this, Ticket Alternative’s growth happened fairly rapidly and by last year, the company had contracts with nearly every small-to-midsize club in Atlanta, as well as a burgeoning presence across the entire Southeast and pockets of venues coming on board in distant locales like Washington, D.C. and Columbus, Ohio. But despite the rapid expansion, the company isn’t slowing down. In fact, Bluett’s looking for more. He’s recently hired a sales representative who he hopes will grow the number of venues under the Ticket Alternative umbrella. At the same time, Bluett is equally focused on growing the company’s call center in order keep up with the jump in ticket sales, and as always, more than anything else, keep the customer happy. gM
WORDS SUMMER 2009 | 19
GET TO KNOW
JAMIE BARTON: THE WOMAN WITH THE GREAT BIG VOICE
lassical music was my rebellion,” says Jamie Barton. The 27-year-old has strawberry blond hair, a megawatt smile that lights up a room and a personality that conveys a down-toearth, girl-next-door quality with a little bit of spitfire. But it’s her voice that’s getting her noticed, a rich, multi-layered mezzo soprano that’s only at the beginning of a journey that most music experts say will go on for decades. Opera News says she has a “sumptuous voice;” and The New York Times has praised her “gospel-powered fervor.” It’s all made her a rising opera star, but you’ll never hear her describe herself that way. “If I stop and think about it, I freak out,” she confesses. “The things I am doing now are happening really early in my career.” Those “things” include a Metropolitan Opera debut this fall as Second Lady in Mozart’s timeless The Magic Flute, following on the heels of her role debut as Penelope in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria at Wolf Trap Opera Company and preceding her debut with the Canadian Opera Company. “It’s such a surprise,” she says with that bright smile as she chats over Indian food in Houston, where she’s finishing up two years in Houston Grand Opera’s Studio training program for young artists. “I really wasn’t expecting [Second Lady]. It’s really nice to debut at the Met in a role that people observe and see as a good singing role.”
Rome today, tomorrow the world It’s a long way from Rome, Georgia, where Barton grew up. But if the world is suddenly her oyster, she knows it all began here. “I love Georgia,” she says. “I lived on this farm, miles from anywhere. It was great, and there was always music.” 20 | GEORGIA MUSIC
BY HOLLY BERETTO
Her father played the guitar and the fiddle and his side of the family all had a musical bent, whether it was playing an instrument or singing; her mother loved music and Barton says she had a “really deep voice—she’s why I’m a mezzo.” “We’d have jam fests at my great aunt’s house. Aunt Emma Jean and Uncle Cal lived across the street from us and they had this wraparound porch.” Barton remembers how family and friends would show up—and pretty soon they’d all be gathered on the porch, singing bluegrass.
My parents are great. They gave me a lot freedom to do things. So, I’d decide to paint my bedroom some wild color and they’d go, ‘Fine.’ We were really close, so there wasn’t a lot to rebel against. Barton was involved in the chorus and musical theatre at Armuchee High School. She and her best friend Cole Burden— who recently finished a stint as Grantaire in Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars production of Les Miserables (“It’s funny how we both wound up in performing careers,” Barton muses)—and some of their other pals would hang out at Kaledisnow ice cream shop, sitting in booths, singing Broadway show tunes. “I think the reason we never got thrown out was because we knew the waiters,” she laughs. “We were definitely not the cool kids.” But they were the ones who brought back the drama program at their high school. The program had been cut, and Barton
says Burden basically resurrected it, corralling her and a few others to anchor it. In addition to performing in high school theatre, Barton’s mom would take her to concerts like Lilith Fair, and she is the first to admit her background often sounds a little bit hippie. “My parents are great,” she says. “They gave me a lot freedom to do things. So, I’d decide to paint my bedroom some wild color and they’d go, ‘Fine.’ We were really close, so there wasn’t a lot to rebel against.” Instead, she used classical music to express herself. Barton graduated from Shorter College and went on to Indiana University, earning a master’s in vocal performance. While there, Barton sang Mrs. Soames in the world premiere of Our Town, based on Thornton Wilder’s classic, a performance The New York Times called “noteworthy.” She received offers to perform at Aspen Music Festival and Opera Theatre of St. Louis, performing The Witch in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Critics lavished praise on the young woman. The Dallas Morning News called her performance of Suzuki “vocally and dramatically … appealing,” while the Aspen Times raved that she “came close to stealing the show” as The Witch. Then Barton won the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition and grabbed third place in the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, becoming a Houston Grand Opera Studio fellow. The program is one of the country’s top young artist training programs and while there, she per-
formed Ursula in Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict, Third Lady in The Magic Flute and sang in the company’s world premiere of The Refuge, ultimately recorded for Albany Records’ classical label.
Influential friends Last winter, Barton made her Carnegie Hall debut, singing in the Marilyn Horn Foundation’s On the Wings of Song recital series. In fact, Horn has become one of Barton’s biggest supporters. “She’s just done it all for me,” Barton says with a mixture of wonder and appreciation. “She got me my Carnegie Hall debut. I have management because of her.” Horn also wrote a personal recommendation for Barton for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. “She’s still thinking of me.” Barton says the opera diva will call or email to tell her about things that she thinks are right for Barton. “I am so blessed by how she’s taken me under her wing.” Stephanie Blythe, another mezzo known for her lyric repertoire, had always been a role model for Barton, who describes her as “an inspiration.” She met Blythe when she won the Met’s National Council Auditions, and didn’t see her until a year or so later, when Barton saw her perform at Tanglewood. “I waited by the stage door, like a total fan” Barton laughs. “And she came out and she looked at me and did a double take. ‘Jamie?’ she asked. And I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Stephanie Blythe knows my name!’” If the trajectory continues the way it has, so will a lot of other people. gM
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Randall Bramblett Athens, GA
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SCOTTY BARNHART LETS HIS TRUMPET DO THE TALKING BY CANDICE DYER
artin Luther King Jr.’s oratory adhered to down-to-earth guidelines even as it soared toward the sky, recalls Scotty Barnhart. “My mother told me that Daddy King was always telling Martin, ‘Keep it simple, and say it plain,’” Barnhart says, referring to the Civil Rights dynasty that reigned over his upbringing in the pews of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church before he became a featured trumpet soloist in the Count Basie Orchestra. “I was mesmerized by the walking bass lines that the organist would play while the choir literally rocked the foundation of the church,” Barnhart says. “That music became part of me early on.” That clarion spirit animates Barnhart’s first solo project, Say It Plain, released in May by Unity Music. Its titular song is dedicated to MLK, the minister who christened him, and like the rest of album, it swings from note to note with an ease that renders many of the improvisations unusually danceable. “I didn’t want to get too rhetorical,” Barnhart says. “I envisioned this CD as uplifting and accessible, with something in it to move everybody. I wanted it to be … happy.” However, with glinting contributions from Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Clark Terry, and Marcus Roberts, and many of their trusty sidemen, the sound may be straight-ahead, but it is anything but plain. “They all create what some call ‘tall smoke,’ heat reaching up to the sky,” writes critic Stanley Crouch in the album’s liner 22 | GEORGIA MUSIC
notes. “Scotty Barnhart understands that art is never really about style; it is about vitality … It is rather glorious that such a sound can be gotten from a cold tube of brass shaped into a threevalved horn. Here too is the most outstanding achievement and the one that denotes a great trumpet player: his tone is free of the presence of metal, which is one of the secrets of its warmth.”
Basie’s legacy Barnhart, a cheerful and dapper 44-year-old who enjoys making his instrument “laugh and shout,” joined the Count Basie Orchestra in 1993, and critics since have praised his “silvery, singing tone” and pronounced him “a young Walt Whitman of the trumpet.” He’s considered a contender to lead the seminal big band, which formed in the late 1930s and has continued performing—and racking up Grammys—as a “ghost band” since the death of founder William “Count” Basie in 1984. “Protecting Basie’s legacy is one of the most important callings of my career,” Barnhart says. Barnhart has recorded and performed with a constellation of stars, including Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Cab Calloway, Rosemary Clooney and his buddy Wynton Marsalis. (Marsalis initially refused to accept any compensation for his work on Say It Plain. One of those gentlemanly tussles ensued, and finally Marsalis took the money and donated it to charity.)
As a professor of jazz trumpet at Florida State University and the author of The World of Trumpet: A Comprehensive History & Practical Philosophy, he’s regarded as a hepcat scholar who honors the old-school fundamentals of his art. He notes that he and his band members “do not wear the baggy pants that some young men do. We’re gentlemen—we wear suits.”
Ever present past In a blurb for the CD, comedian Bill Cosby observes, “Scotty Barnhart’s work combines a mastery of tradition with vibrant originality.” (Joe Williams, another Georgia native who often sang with the Count Basie Orchestra, had a recurring role on The Cosby Show.) Adds Crouch, “Scotty Barnhart well understands what T.S. Eliot meant when he referred to the ‘present moment of the past.’” In fact, Barnhart loves to reminisce about his first trumpet, a gift from his mother when he was nine: “I’ll never forget the first time I saw it,” he says. “The light hit it just as I looked at it, and it was so silver and shiny that it actually looked like a star.” While in high school, he was named first trumpet and soloist for the NFL's Atlanta Falcon Band and the Atlanta Community Orchestra. The King family and the estate of Count Basie awarded him scholarships, and he earned a degree in music education at Florida A&M University. “The trumpet kept me off drugs and out of trouble,” he says. On Say It Plain, Barnhart shows his appreciation for his forebears by invoking the Second Line tradition of New Orleans
jazz funerals, and pays polyphonic tribute to the author of Roots in “Haley’s Passage.” Vocalist Jamie Davis gives a warm rendition of “Young At Heart,” and Leon Anderson blows an authoritative whistle for Barnhart’s melodic take on John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” Marsalis’ horn can be discerned in “Con Alma,” and his father, Ellis, plays piano on two tracks. Barnhart always comes home, though, to the exultant call-andresponse cadences of Ebenezer, noticeably in the song, which was recorded in “one take, and one take only,” he emphasizes.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw it. The light hit it just as I looked at it, and it was so silver and shiny that it actually looked like a star. “I was trying to evoke what takes place after a sermon, the opening of the doors of the church, when the music turns upbeat,” Barnhart says. “So I got Herlin Riley [a Marsalis percussionist] to play tambourine to give it that old Baptist feeling. Oh, goodness! Everybody in the room was dancing, trying not to knock over microphones in these gyrations that were like some African ritual. It’s a real spiritual thing when something goes that easy.” In that moment, his trumpet was talking, it seems, with a rousing eloquence worthy of Dr. King. gM
GET TO KNOW SUMMER 2009 | 23
GET TO KNOW
KAI RIEDL: ATHENS’ IMPORT/EXPORT SPECIALIST
eorgia’s fertile musical soil usually produces an abundance of indigenous music, with our musicians serving as ambassadors, carrying the sounds far afield. But not all local innovation comes from the process of woodshedding in the Appalachian foothills, and for Athens musician Kai Riedl, it took a trip halfway around the globe—to Indonesia and back several times over—to build the foundation for JavaSounds, his newest musical enterprise. For Reidl, exportation gave way to importation and Georgia pines to Javanese rice paddies— the trade routes open with the goal of collaboration, exploration and mutual musical growth in mind. “I’ve been listening to this kind of music since I was in my midteens,” Riedl says, recalling a friend who gave him a CD of exotic Indonesian music, full of chiming, keening strings, clattering, ringing gongs and primal percussion. He first experimented with east/west fusion as a member of the now-defunct Athens band Macha, a group that got moderate millennial attention for its employment of traditional Indonesian gamelan—an instrumental ensemble characterized by percussive metal gongs, drums and strings—with spacey indie rock. “I think my interests pretty much lie in travel, and I have to have a relationship with music. Combining them on that first trip [to Indonesia] 10 years ago was pretty fantastic, [traveling] guerrilla style, if you will. And so my interest pretty much grew from there to that first trip, and being prepared to enjoy music from around the world.” Riedl also is a professor of religious studies at the University of Georgia, and recently taught a class on the relationship between music and religions. For him, music is more than something to listen to—it’s something to experience fully, through listening but also through creating, through recording, through manipulating and through sharing. And with JavaSounds and Our New Silence, tandem projects focusing on creating bridges between melodic,
24 | GEORGIA MUSIC
BY CHRIS HASSIOTIS
hypnotic Indonesian music and the Western world, he gets to do just that. JavaSounds is an ongoing field recording project that has so far borne the fruit of five trips to Indonesia, while Our New Silence is a way for Riedl to recontextualize those sounds—it’s both a remix project involving local musicians, and the name of a live collaborative presentation that took place in Athens earlier this spring and may resurface in the future. “Two distinct sides of the same coin,” says Riedl who’s eager to draw attention to musical traditions as well as to find new ways to approach them.
A taste of Java Riedl took five trips to the Southeast Asian country over the past five years, each time recording more and delving into the traditional musical culture. Local sound engineer Daniel Rickard, formerly of Athens bands Tin Cup Prophette and The Low Lows, accompanied Riedl on three of those trips to provide technical know-how. “I decided to bring someone like Daniel, who has such a great command of the tools, to help,” says Riedl. “I’d tried recording before, but you don’t really realize how hard it is to capture sounds, keep things in tune, keep people focused, keep—at times—even chickens quiet!” Riedl says his current goal with the JavaSounds project, “is to provide a reliable introduction to Javanese music,” and he plans to do so by offering numerous albums for sale online (at javasounds.org) at one dollar apiece, with one album released per week for 10 weeks. “So I guess I also want to create a new model for music,” he says, “because obviously the one that’s been in place is not working. Our relationship with music has changed. Our gratitude for it has changed. So I’m trying to find a different model for how to present these, both more economically
and more formatively.” Riedl says, though, that the JavaSounds project never started with a definite goal, but that each step has evolved out of the prior. “I have to say that to a large degree there was an element of choicelessness to the whole thing,” he says. “I feel compelled to do these things. “When I look back on it, I’ve always been politically aware but not very politically active, and trying to expose some of these cultural elements of the Islamic world was my form of political activism, in a sense. And I love the music. Really, once we got back and realized what we had, the goal to release it came to mind, and then to develop some more music out of these parts is now what we’re working on.” The last element is where Riedl’s companion project, Our New Silence, comes in, featuring a bevy of other Athens musicians and taking JavaSounds’ field recordings as a starting point.
Sounds of ‘Silence’ With numerous local musicians who often flirt with the grey area between mainstream and experimental music—artists like Kyle Dawkins (Georgia Guitar Quartet), Heather McIntosh (The Instruments, Gnarls Barkley), Page Campbell (Hope For Agoldensummer, Creepy) and Killick—Our New Silence reworks the raw material from the JavaSounds recording sessions, lacing pop, rock and electronic textures into the music. “It’s a giant experiment,” says Riedl. “It should be a good chance to hear some different sounds, learn a little bit about the Islamic world, Indonesia, and hear some of our favorite musicians from there.” The Our New Silence project is supported by UGA’s Ideas for Creative Exploration, an interdisciplinary initiative for advanced research in the arts. “My goal really is to create really some kind of abstracted Indonesian soundscape for people where they can learn about this music and simultaneously enjoy some music or genres that they may not be familiar with,” says Riedl. But to tie Riedl, a musical import-export chief, to any one spot—Georgia, Java, or otherwise—is a stretch at best, a disin-
A JAVANESE MUSICIAN PLAYS THE TARAWANGSA IN A FIELD RECORDING SESSION. genuous enterprise at worst. Take a note from cultural experimentalist Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.” Riedl’s passion exists not in Georgia or in Java, but in the fact that their traditions exist separately, and that they can intersect, and that he can make that possible. gM For more information on JavaSounds, visit javasounds.org. For Our New Silence, including samples of the remixes, visit ournewsilence.com.
GET TO KNOW SUMMER 2009 | 25
PHOTOS BY JAMES KELLY
HOT RODS LINED UP AT DRIVE INVASION
Flame jobs, tattoos and 50-foot women ATLANTA’S DRIVE INVASION STRIKES AGAIN BY JAMES KELLY
ased at the Starlight Drive-In in southeast Atlanta for 11 years now, Labor Day’s Drive Invasion event has become the epicenter of hipness and good times for those who have an affinity for popular American cultural signifiers such as classic cars, classic music and classic cult movies. From its humble 1999 beginnings, the event has claimed the title as Atlanta’s “must do” happening over the busy holiday weekend. “The first few years were hardcore—three days: Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Labor Day),” says amateur historian and Starlight regular Greg Germani. “Then they were cut back to two days. We need a day to relax before the working world reasserts itself on Tuesday.” “The Starlight opened in 1949,” Germani continues. “Oscar Oldknow, [grandfather of current owner Teri Oldknow], built it with his partners in the Georgia Theatre Company.” Over the years the Starlight has seen its ups and downs, and currently stands as the last remaining theater of its type in the Atlanta area. The influx of regular attendees who discovered the theater through the Drive Invasion has revitalized it in many ways. While other events occur throughout the year, such as the Monster Bash
WAITING FOR THE MOVIE TO BEGIN 26 | GEORGIA MUSIC
in June and the Downhill Challenge Soap Box Derby in November, Drive Invasion remains the biggest and most popular event of the season. Jim Stacy, the Starlight’s manager, acknowledges its immense popularity: “3,250 to 3,500 folks invaded last year. That seems to be our max. We are as big as it can get at this point. That's fine with me. … Folks expect to come when they want and just cruise in. Sadly, there's no way for that to happen.”
Bar talk to reality Greg and his wife Suellen were instrumental in the germination of the concept that grew into Drive Invasion. “In April 1999, Greg and I went to the Starlight Drive-In for the first time together,” Suellen recalls. “Afterward, at the Star Bar, I was talking to surf guitarist, artist and web developer Scott Rogers about how much fun we'd had and how much I loved going to the Glenwood drive-
It’s a toss-up between the car show and the live music.Those are both pretty consistently reliable.The movies range from great to not nearly as great as you hoped they’d be.The vintage trailers before (and between) the feature movies, though, are spectacular fun. in as a kid. Scott, being a high-concept kind of guy, got this twinkle in his eye and said, ‘We should start a little club with our friends and go out to the drive-in every week. We could have an email list and vote on what movie we want to see. Oh, and wouldn't it be awesome to have an event where bands can play at the drivein during the day and then we could all watch B movies at night?’ And so the idea of the Drive Invasion was born.” From this initial conversation a weekly tradition was started. According to Suellen, “I was in charge of the weekly email list because Scott, though very talented at coming up with really creative ideas, was not so great with follow through. We named our group the Drive Invaders and began meeting every week. We really
went all out—bringing Barcaloungers, fake plants and coffee tables. Some of us even wore clothes and brought props that matched the theme of whatever movie we had chosen to see.” The weekly event’s growing attendance caught the attention of Starlight owner Teri Oldknow, who quickly got to know the group. “After a few weeks Teri wandered over to our gathering because she’d heard about our zany antics,” Suellen recalls. “Teri’s family owns several other drive-ins around the United States. I introduced her to Scott and suggested to her that he was the perfect person to design the website for the Starlight. They began doing just that and then developed the framework for the first Labor Day Drive Invasion event.”
Bettie Page bangs and pompadours So what could draw thousands of people to stand around in a concrete parking lot for two days, during the hot sticky days and nights of the late Georgia summer? “The great lineup of live bands—both local and touring acts,” Greg offers. “[Plus,] the car show is spectacular, the camping is popular, the fact that the management has a very permissive policy regarding cookouts is something a lot of people take advantage of. There are a lot of diehards who stay up pretty much all night or until the screen finally goes dark. It's a great social event. And the BYOB aspect probably doesn't hurt the event's popularity either.” Even though the Drive Invasion revolves around movies, other aspects, such as the car show, the music and the camaraderie, are as much or more of a draw. “Greg and I are big fans of live music performed in intimate settings,” Suellen says. “At Drive Invasion, you can stand within a few feet of the stage and really soak up the experience. We've enjoyed seeing out-of-town bands such as The Blasters, Los Straitjackets, Deke Dickerson & the Echophonics, Southern Culture on the Skids and Big Sandy & the Fly Rite Boys play on the same bill as our local Atlanta musician friends.” Greg adds: “It’s a toss-up between the car show and the live music. Those are both pretty consistently reliable. The movies range from great to not nearly as great as you hoped they’d be. The vintage trailers before (and between) the feature movies, though, are spectacular fun.” “Drive Invasion has become homecoming for a good many folks in Atlanta and beyond,” Stacy offers. “You get to see friends and family that only are able to get together once a year and celebrate another year under your belt and experience the Drive-In.” While the ongoing success of the Drive Invasion is clearly a
MEMBERS OF GRINDER NOVA ON STAGE product of many creative minds and hard work, there is no doubt that the prime mover was Scott Rogers. According to Suellen, in the first few years “Scott influenced every aspect of the creation of the Drive Invasion down to designing the posters and marketing materials, choosing the bands that played, and picking the movies that screened.” Sadly, Rogers passed away in 2003, and each year since then his contributions are remembered and honored at the Drive Invasion. “My favorite Drive Invasion memory is seeing Scott Rogers’ band, The Penetrators, playing at the very first Drive Invasion,” Suellen says. “It was incredible to see this brilliant idea, hatched in a conversation in a bar, come to life. It's been really fun to watch the event evolve. Every year there are more attendees, more vintage cars, more tattoos and piercings, and more unabashed fun. I think Scott would love to have seen how his flash of inspiration has turned into one of the best parties of the year.” gM
MANFRED (THE PROFESSOR) JONES OF THE WOGGLES STIRS UP THE CROWD SUMMER 2009 | 27
L-R: JOHN HOPKINS/BASS, CHRIS FRYAR/DRUMS, ZAC BROWN/VOCALS & GUITAR, JIMMY DE MARTIN/VIOLIN, CLAY COOK/ORGAN, COY BOWLES/GUITAR
“I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand / Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand / Life is good today”
PHOTO BY PHOTOGRAPHER
he north Georgia mountain town of Dahlonega, at the foothills of the Appalachian range, is primarily known for three things: Gold, as it was the site of the very first gold rush in the United States (which began in 1829 and lasted until the California gold rush began in 1848); wine, with five popular vineyards and wineries in Lumpkin County alone; and bluegrass, the sound of which fills the city’s charming town square every year during the Bear On The Square and Gold Rush Days festivals. It’s a peaceful, pastoral place to raise a family, but it’s also proven surprisingly fertile ground for nurturing musical fruit (particularly when you consider it had less than 4,000 residents as of the last census). Indigo Girl Amy Ray lived here for a while, as did Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and Widespread Panic frontman John Bell. But perhaps none of Dahlonega’s famous former residents embodies the Southern spirit of this small town as much as Zac Brown, whose bluegrass-influenced brand of booze-soaked country-rock recently garnered him his first certified Gold album, The Foundation. Although his genre-defying sound has been compared to everyone from Jimmy Buffett to Dave Matthews, Brown grew up steeped in Appalachian culture, living the sort of traditional country life that he would eventually write about with such warmth and affection in songs like “Toes” and “Chicken Fried.” Speaking via telephone during a recent tour stop in Hawaii, the singer/songwriter remembered his childhood growing up in Dahlonega and the even smaller town of Cumming. “Most of my brothers and sisters are older—the oldest is 21 years older than me—so a lot of them were in college or had families of their own by the time I was growing up. My dad had been through so many kids that I was able to throw knives at four years old. When I was 10,” he admits with an incredulous laugh, “there’s a picture of me dragging a shotgun though the dirt. My dad taught me how to fish and hunt and do things outdoors. After school we’d always go fishing or swimming, going out on the lake or playing in the Chestatee River and just spending time outside, which was great.” Influenced in part by his father (who played guitar) and mother (who sang in the church choir), Brown began his musical education very early in life. He started studying classical guitar at the age of seven and, by his own admission, played his guitar everywhere he went. He got his first CD player shortly thereafter, getting CDs from Garth Brooks, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles before expanding his collection to include classic ’60s and ’70s singer/songwriters such as James Taylor, Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot, America and Bread.
BY BRET LOVE
But one of his biggest musical influences came in the form of his older brother, Wen. “He played guitar and banjo, so he’s the one who got me into bluegrass music. He had a really cool beach house in Destin,” Brown recalls warmly, “so every year I’d go down to visit and learn how to pick. At the time I was learning how to do classical stuff, so I had very good finger coordination and was able to play some pretty intricate stuff on the guitar. But I’d never used a pick before and didn’t know what chords were, so I was running around summer camp asking people how to play them. So I went from classical to learning about bluegrass. Music was always a big part of my life; I was either listening to it or trying to make it.” By the age of 14, as a student at South Forsyth High School, Brown had begun writing bits and pieces of so many songs that his parents were often being called about their son’s constant daydreaming. By his own admission, “I have a lot of nervous energy and my brain kinda drifts off.” In his spare time he sang in the choir and in a barbershop quartet, but he got his first clue that music might eventually become his career the day when, at the age of 15, he got to open for Atlantabased singer/songwriters Shawn Mullins and Matthew Kahler at a Dahlonega coffee shop. “As everything got a little further along I was starting to play the folk stuff,” he recalls of his early artistic evolution, “and when I heard them sing I was like, OK, this is what I want to do. [In your teen years] you experience love and relationships and you have that first real heartache where you think you’re gonna die. You just think your life is over. So that was what I was writing about then, just to get through it. Even now when I listen back to those songs, I realize music has an amazing way of getting you through your trials and tribulations.” But troubled romance wasn’t the only struggle Brown had to endure on the long and winding road to success in the music business. True to his bluecollar roots, the singer recalls working a series of odd jobs that he insists gave him a better foundation for writing songs that speak straight to the heart of anyone raised in the South. “I’ve worked everywhere,” he says with a laugh. “I worked at McDonalds. I worked at this place called the Wagon Wheel, which was a catfish restaurant where I’d work in the back frying up fish. I worked as an apprentice jeweler for a year when I was 15. I owned my own restaurant near Lake Oconee (called Zac’s Place) and had all my own recipes. I built the place out and my dad helped me with all the start-up paperwork, helped me get the funding together and everything I needed to get it started. It was running good for a year and a half, but land developers came in and bought everything around it and shut everything down. They’re in foreclosure now, so it’s funny how everything works out. So I know how to get my hands dirty, and I think knowing what that means absolutely can help you [as a songwriter], because if you never know anything else but music then you expect to be taken care of. I’ve been the person I write about in my music since day one.”
first to join, with Coy Bowles (guitar, organ) and drummer Chris Fryar coming into the fold later. The band’s self-released debut album, Far From Einstyne, came out that year, with Home Grown released a year later. But it was largely through intense, extended stretches of touring that the band initially began making a name for itself. “We took off and were playing six hours a night for five nights a week when we got our first tour going,” Brown recalls proudly. “We’d negotiated with a club in Panama City to pay us $150 a night, but it was a guarantee if we did 10 nights in a row for six hours a night for $1,500, and we toted our own gear. That was just the way we traveled. This is my 13th year of touring and we’ve done over 3,000 shows, and our shows are typically four hours long.” It’s an old school, grassroots approach to building a fan base that goes in direct contradiction to the current conventional wisdom of using MySpace marketing, or a hot iTunes single, or the perfect placement of a song in a hit TV show or film to create an overnight success story. But if Brown is to be believed, he wouldn’t have had it any other way. “I think it’s so valuable that you should have to go through the trenches and really learn how to entertain people,” he insists passionately. “Whether it’s five people at a bar or 15,000 people at an arena, it’s invaluable that the hard work gets done. There are a lot of ways now for people to try to get exposure so that they can become famous before they become accomplished. It’s kind of backwards, but people who really love music and dedicate their life to music can see through that. Whereas the general public might only listen to that one song or two hit songs, and assume that that artist can come up with more. I’m proud to be of the school that dedicates their lives to music, like Willie Nelson. Guys like him, they go out and work hard. Even if you think you can become famous through a reality show or TV and think you can have this huge career, it can only last so long. You have to work hard.” If Brown seems to take pride in this blue-collar work ethic, he’s even more proud of the fact that, as a result of all this dedication to their craft, the Zac Brown Band has become a family off the road as well as on. He’s had the same core band, the same engineer, even the same photographer for the last five years, all gradually working up to performing in 2,000-seat venues (including a high-profile 2006 set at the Bonnaroo Music Festival) even before country radio made them stars. According to Brown, the addition of multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook to the band’s lineup was the final piece that perfected the puzzle. “He’s the icing on the cake for me,” he says of the former John Mayer, Shawn Mullins and Sugarland sideman. “I think he’s one of the best musicians for his age—an incredible singer, incredible instrumentalist, incredible songwriter. He’s real out there with harmony, letting his voice lead on certain songs. I’m a big fan of his as well. I know it’s my name on the band, but we’re always making the best music that we possibly can, so I’m proud to have him in the band and I’m proud to sing backup as he sings. I think that, as we sing more songs that he’s written, we’ll become a force to be reckoned with, because it just keeps getting better and better.” But as much as he may want to credit Cook for the band’s recent string of successes (which include two hit singles and an award from the Academy of Country Music for Top New Vocal Duo or Group), it’s a song Brown wrote before the band was even
Music was always a big part of my life; I was either listening to it or trying to make it.
“Adios and vaya con dios / A long way from G-A / Someone do me a favor and pour me some Jaeger / And I’ ll grab my guitar and play” By 2004 the singer/songwriter had decided to eschew the solo route in favor of forming the Zac Brown Band. Bassist John Hopkins and fiddler extraordinaire Jimmy de Martini were the 30 | GEORGIA MUSIC
I know how to get my hands dirty, and I think that absolutely helps you as a songwriter. If you never know anything else but music then you expect to be taken care of. SPRING 2009 | 00
formed that made them an overnight success story four years in the making. “Chicken Fried,” his homage to country-living staples such as cold beer and chicken-fried steak, was written in 2003 and recorded for the Home Grown album, then recorded by Atlanta’s Lost Trailers before Brown decided to re-record it and release it as a single last November. The song shot to #1 on the Billboard country charts, making the Zac Brown Band the first “new” act to reach the top spot with their debut single since Heartland’s “I Loved Her First” in 2006. Even Brown seems surprised by the single’s continued success, which includes over a million copies sold to date. “It’s unbelievable how many singles sell in a week after it’s been a year. I did not know that it was going to have the wheels that it has,” he confesses. Asked what makes the song so durable, he muses that, “It’s us talking about things that we feel genuinely matter. It’s not about how big our farm is or how big our car’s wheels [are]. It’s real, and I think [its success] is a sign of the times. You watch the news these days and you just want to kill yourself, so it’s important that people be reminded of what’s really important.” But of course platinum sales success rarely builds based on talent and touring alone. Last year saw the band inking a couple of high-profile deals that quickly put their name on the national music map, starting with being chosen as the first group signed to Live Nation’s fledgling record label. Unfortunately when Chairman Michael Cole resigned from the company to serve as an independent consultant, Live Nation shelved its label plans and went back to its previous business model as the world’s largest concert promotion company. Fortunately, it took mere months for Brown to ink a new contract with Atlantic Records. “Live Nation paid us to leave, so we were able to strike a partnership with Atlantic.” Better still, Brown’s years spent on the road building up a fervent following gave him an enormous amount of bargaining power when it came time to hammer out his first major-label deal. “I was able to sign a pure split with Atlantic, so we were at the best possible leveraging point that we could be in with the negotiations. Southern Grounds is my record label, and now we’re working with helping some people out of Atlanta (including singer-songwriters Sonia Leigh, Nic Cowan and Levi Lowrey), having them come out on the road and open up for us and helping them to get their CD’s distributed. I’ll be producing their new records in August while I’m home.” While helping lesser-known artists get a foothold in the music biz is certainly a priority on Brown’s increasingly busy to-do list, he’s also far from content to let the Zac Brown Band rest on its laurels. Although country radio has certainly welcomed the band with open arms, the man himself has bigger aspirations, using the global grassroots success of his idol Dave Matthews as a career blueprint and fusing the traditional sounds of country with the more eclectic approach indigenous to the jam-band circuit. “I don’t think anyone’s ever done what Dave Matthews has done as far as building a grassroots fan base,” Brown insists. “I really look up to Dave for the band that he put together, for building a fan base, and for his creativity and longevity. I’m southern,
but we’re diverse as a band and country is essentially pop music now. We definitely have a place in country music, because that’s where honest songs about life are most at home. But with the new record that we’re working on right now, we’re doing some serious jamming, and there’s a little bit of everything, from country to island reggae. I think we can achieve that kind of following as far as what Dave’s done, making it a total experience for the fans and giving a really good, three-hour show where everyone gets into it.” It should be noted that, when complimented on his cover of Ray LaMontagne’s “Jolene” and asked about what other contemporary singer/songwriters he admires, the first batch of names Brown lists doesn’t have a single country artist among them. Damien Rice, Ryan Adams, David Gray and the Wood Brothers are among his favorites, with Brad Paisley, Eric Church and Jimmy Johnson getting plugs in the country world.
“Adios and vaya con dios / Going home now to stay / Just gonna prop up by the lake / Put my ass in a lawn chair / Toes in the clay / Not a worry in the world, a PBR on the way / Life is good today” While his current musical influences may originate far away from Georgia’s red clay, Brown seems to keep much of his focus on the home front, even when he’s thousands of miles away. He has a wife and two young daughters back in Mableton (with a third on the way in September), with most of his friends and family still located nearby. And his old stomping grounds in Dahlonega? Well, that’s the planned site for his Homegrown Camp, a non-profit camp designed to teach kids about diversity, teamwork, nutritional awareness and life skills as well as music and art. ”It’s actually in the start-up stages,” Brown says of the non-profit venture. “We’ve got the land and we’re working on doing some clearing and breaking ground on it. We’ll have around 150 kids at a time, and it’ll be a mixture of kids whose parents send them for a week and scholarship kids who are underprivileged or mentally challenged. We’ve got a holistic platform based on nutrition, and our partners have had huge success treating kids that have autism via brain stimulation and nutrition. We’re building their first treatment center for kids that require extended stay, and building a whole camp to teach kids about things they don’t learn at home or in the school system.” And in the meantime, Brown will continue to focus on his band’s five-year plan. “Five years from now we’re gonna be better as musicians, playing and writing songs all the time. We’re gonna have our own stage production out on the road with us so that we can accompany our music with video screens and other background images. We’ve been kicking around a cartoon idea that we’ve been working on, and we’ve been working on a 10minute 3-D music video that we can play during the show so that we can actually change the set. I want to be on the level of Union Station, where the musicianship is second to none. I just want us to grow as a band. And every show of ours that someone comes to see, I want them to see us as that much better…” gM
I want to be on the level of Union Station, where the musicianship is second to none.
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Soul Sistahs Think Atlanta’s rap scene is incredible? Wait ‘til you hear from the ladies cooing its R&B scene to the top. By DeMarco Williams
PHOTO BY GUILIANO BEKOR
Keri Hilson 00 | GEORGIA MUSIC
ome say it was when three hometown cuties named T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili began prancing around in colorful overalls in 1991. Others swear it was the day two Southwest Atlanta kids called Kris Kross started wearing their clothes backwards in ‘92. Still others insist it was when longtime homeboys Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton tossed their Webster’s Dictionary out of the window in ’94 and came up with the word Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Honestly, we may not ever reach a consensus as to when the Atlanta musical movement got its legs. But all we really need to know about it is that it’s been going strong 15+ years and doesn’t show the slightest signs of letting up anytime soon. And we’re not just talking about the Young Jeezy-, Gucci Mane-filled rap worlds either. What LaFace, So So Def, Rowdy and other local labels started over a decade ago in R&B was nothing short of phenomenal. The old adage goes that you never know that you’re making history when you’re making it. Musicians were just having fun… and selling lots of CDs at Tower and HMV. Thankfully, industry experts have had time to analyze the movement and come up with some reasonable explanations. “The Atlanta area is very fortunate to claim Jermaine Dupri as one of its own,” says Mark Edward Nero, R&B guide for the popular reference website About.com. “He and his musical associates have definitely helped the Atlanta area stay ahead of most other regions of the country when it comes to innovative R&B music. Thanks to him and highly creative producers and songwriters like The-Dream, Tricky Stewart and Keri Hilson’s songwriting group The Clutch, Atlanta’s managed to become fertile
PHOTO BY JOHN FERGUSON
ground for creativity and cutting-edge sounds. Music creators in Atlanta are defining the sound of R&B music; other regions of the country are copying and playing catch-up.” It’s that seemingly endless game of catch-up that’s bewildered so many. With music being the cyclical bugger that it is, one would have thought after TLC and Xscape’s brilliant sprint across Billboard, the sound would have run out of steam and made its way to Miami or Oakland. But, in actuality, all it did was go down the block to Ciara. Surely, after the baton passed through her hands, however, it would have gone to Dallas or Philly, right? Had it, we wouldn’t be doing this story now. But just because MTV and the FM dial haven’t tired of Atlanta traffic, Varsity hot dogs and the city’s enthusiastic percussions, doesn’t mean that things haven’t changed. They have immensely. “I think the current wave of R&B ladies is equal to the last big wave of divas in the 1990s, but in different ways,” continues About.com’s Nero. “I’d have to give the ladies of the ‘90s an edge when it comes to pure vocal talent: modern singers like Ciara, Keri Hilson and the girl group Cherish all have refined, melodious voices, but some of the women from the ‘90s like Monica and Toni Braxton have bigger voices and more raw vocal firepower. But on the plus side for the modern artists is that they’re more freethinking and creative, as evidenced by brilliant, eclectic artists like Janelle Monae and India.Arie.” Neither Monae (who’s originally from Kansas City) nor Arie (Denver by way of Savannah) are from Atlanta. But both have been in the city long enough to not only claim it, but to speak on its magnetism as well. “They’re experimenting with sounds,” begins Monae, whose
Wondaland Arts Society is partnering with Diddy’s Bad Boy to release her whimsy, soul/future pop CDs Metropolis Suites II and III later this year. “They’ve tapped into a sound that people from markets in the East Coast and the West Coast haven’t really heard. For a long time, those two coasts were taking over the music industry. A movement is very important. People can believe in something when there are enough people doing it.” Another thing that has helped the city keep its pool of musicians populated is the sense of “he/she made it here, I know I can too” hovering above the Atlanta skyline. Actors feel that way about Hollywood. Basketball players feel the same for the University of North Carolina. Janelle Monae had a similar feeling about The A. “James Brown,” says Monae, “is from Augusta but started his career in Atlanta. He had a huge influence on me coming ‘cuz I wanted that funk! I came here for that. OutKast, of course [influenced my decision too]. Yeah, there are just certain individuals that I was drawn to.” Keyshia Cole, one of today’s biggest R&B names and star of the Atlanta-based, BET reality series Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is, won’t credit the Godfather of Soul or Gladys Knight for influencing her exodus from Oakland to Atlanta three years ago. The 27year-old singer offers, however, a more rooted explanation. “I’ve always wanted to live there because of the weather and
the trees,” insists the multi-platinum artist who’s currently touring in promotion of her third release, A Different Me. “I feel like I have so much room to breathe. It’s like one of those places where when you’re home you’re home. It’s not L.A. where everything is moving so fast. It’s not New York where you’re coming home and moving so fast and living out of a suitcase. You never get the sense of settling down. That’s kinda why I chose to move to Atlanta— not because of the music but more so of settling down.” Ciara Harris is another singer who may have been born elsewhere (Austin, Texas), but wears the breezy, crunk hat just like an Atlanta native might. Throw on “Goodies” or “Never Ever” off her latest album, Fantasy Ride, and you fully understand why ATL mega producer Jazzy Pha gravitated to her back in ‘04. Now 23, Ciara’s sound is certainly maturing, still it’s keeping true to its Dixie beginnings. “This go-round,” Ciara told MTV a few months back, “there's so many more things I get into, whether it's fashion or my lyrics getting more aggressive. I'm having a bit more fun with my lyrics. I'm not afraid. In the beginning, I was conscious and really protective and somewhat scared in reference to doing some things. With this album I'm not holding back, there's a freedom. It's just the space I'm in right now." But whatever you do, don’t for a second think there isn’t homegrown talent to go around. It’s no biggie if you’re in the
Music creators in Atlanta are defining the sound of R&B music; other regions of the country are copying and playing catch-up.
Keyshia Cole mood for radio-friendly soul (Keri Hilson) or a smoothed-out, coffeehouse listening session (Slick & Rose), A-town has got just the sound. We won’t even get into the funky, genre-splicing things Joi does on stage. The guitar-wielding Algebra Blessett would probably plop herself right in the middle of all those aforementioned stages. Part India.Arie, part Alicia Keys, all refreshing, Algebra may be where the Atlanta movement is heading next. “The girl’s the truth,” swears Nero. “We were in New York,” recollects Algebra, a Kedar Entertainment Group-signed artist, “and I walked out on stage —I was corn-rolled down— and cats saw a guitar on stage. I picked up my guitar and I heard three people go, ‘Awww’ [in disappointment]. I started singing halfway through the first verse and those same cats were bobbing their heads like, ‘Oh, okay. I get it.’ They expect the outside cover. I’m not burning incense. I’m not blinged out. I’m kinda caught in the middle.” Kedar Massenburg, as you may remember, is the same visionary who introduced the masses to Arie years ago over at Motown. India’s ties to Algebra are yet another illustration of the tightness, direct or indirect, in the Atlanta R&B community. “I think that’s what Atlanta has done successfully,” chimes Janelle Monae. “They’ve stuck together and supported each other. They’ve pulled each other up. One got in and pulled up the next person. They mentored and whatnot. A lot of goodwill has helped the Atlanta scene.” Monae speaks from experience, as she’s worked with hip-hoppers Big Boi and Killer Mike in the past. She’s presently teamed with Cee-Lo on the “Open Happiness” campaign with Coke. While the likes of Janelle Monae and Algebra might be prepping to carry the creative baton, it will take the continued efforts
Algebra Blesset of household names like Ciara, Keri Hilson and Keyshia Cole —by the way, the talented trio has combined for over eight million in domestic album sales— to keep the mainstream’s attention on the Georgia capitol. Ms. Cole certainly seems up to the challenge. “I was young when I went to L.A. and first got my deal,” says Cole, who partnered with Atlanta siren Monica on A Different Me’s chart-topping “Trust.” “Also, me and my family we’ve all grown. I’ve grown as a musician, as an entertainer. I’ve learned so much more about the business and how to handle myself and actually prepare. I’ve evolved as a person throughout everything in my life.” She adds, “I’m just making sure I’m handling myself correctly. I’m not really a pop artist. I’m thrown in that pop culture. I’m definitely an R&B artist. I have to make sure what I put out there into the world and what people see is definitely something that I can be proud of.” Ask any sistah with ties to the ATL’s impressive movement and she’ll probably echo a similar quote. Plain and simple, recording in the city —much like donning a New York Yankees jersey or playing a guitar in Seattle— comes with certain expectations. We may not be able to pinpoint exactly when those expectations started; we just know they’re there. “There’s a very close connection between the artists here in Atlanta,” declares Monae. “The community has always been very ethereal and positive, to say the least. At Wondaland, we held a couple of meetings with all the ‘independent’ artists that were friends. We try to at least keep in contact with them and figure out how we can all come together and help build each other’s career up. Everyone is passing down the torch and lending advice.” Yep, Chicago, Detroit and Houston most certainly have a problem. It’s Hotlanta’s R&B sound. And, unfortunately for the rest of the country, the ladies behind it are just starting to warm up. gM SUMMER 2009 | 37
Frank Mullen 1961-2009
t is inevitable that each individual in this world will touch the lives of others in any number of ways. Some cast a wider net than others, and the quality and value of the touch varies greatly. Few people ever reach the scope of influence or spread the positive messages that the late Atlanta photographer Frank Mullen managed to achieve in his far-too-short life. His work was seen around the world through various media outlets, and the quality of his art left a lasting impression on everyone who had the joy to experience his craftsmanship. The Florida native spent most of his productive years in Atlanta, where he lived with wife Vanessa and son Kyle. Like every challenge he ever addressed, his decisive venture into professional concert and celebrity portrait photography was a success, as Frank’s skills and creativity became well known and highly respected. A former drummer in both regionally recognized punk band Roach Motel and jangle-pop band The Chant, Frank had the sort of stage experience that nurtured his ability to identify “the moment” when the picture captured the essence of the live performance. But it wasn’t just his artistic skills that drew others to him.
Frank was one of the most intelligent, creative, witty and amiable individuals in the local music scene. Never pretentious, always pleasant and levelheaded, Frank didn’t have an enemy in the world, and was admired and loved by just about everyone with whom he ever crossed paths. In his final months, Frank continued to work while privately but courageously battling adenocarcinoma, a rare disease he revealed only to a few close friends with the admonition to respect his request for confidentiality. He never lost his charming personality or wit, and spending time with Frank during those final weeks was as therapeutic and comforting for his friends as it was for him. Frank passed peacefully on Saturday, May 9, surrounded by his loving family. So in honor of a singular talent and irreplaceable friend, Georgia Music presents a small gallery of Frank Mullen’s finest work. His passing has left a gaping hole in our hearts and in future issues of this publication, as his proficiency and vision will be difficult to replace. However, his beautiful spirit and art will always be with us. To Vanessa, Kyle, Frank’s parents, and all of his friends and fans, we send our deepest condolences.
By James Kelly and Claire French
OutKast: What looks like a simple, casual studio snapshot of Atlanta’s most popular hip-hop group is a stark and honest portrait that humanizes the duo, while capturing the unique individual personal styles of each artist. 00 | GEORGIA MUSIC
Lynyrd Skynyrd: Frank’s fellow Floridians in Lynyrd Skynyrd have been through hard times in their long careers, yet this picture captures the sheer joy of the band sharing a final round of applause at the end of another gig. The presence of current singer Johnny Van Zandt’s shirt—paying serendipitous tribute to his late brother Ronnie Van Zandt—bridges the band’s past and present.
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Jucifer: This was one of Frank’s personal favorite photographs, done in 1999 for the Athens band’s debut album. The saturated complementary colors and creative composition draws the viewer in and captures the band’s chaotic and vibrant image, cementing Frank’s reputation in the process. A dirt road never looked so good.
Larry LeMaster: This photo of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra cellist Larry LeMaster was taken for an investment magazine and features LeMaster’s primary financial asset—a $2 million instrument. By placing the subject in a field of identical chairs, Frank emphasizes its unique and iconic status.
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Shannon Wright: Originally from Florida, Shannon Wright is a commanding vocalist who was one of Frankâ€™s favorite subjects. Accordingly, the singer was in multiple photo shoots over the years. Here Frank presents a stark yet indirect shot, retaining a bit of mystery by actually hiding her greatest asset.
Ludacris: In rap, image is everything, and Frank gives Atlanta rapper Ludacris an intimidating presence, with the stare, the shadows and the colors underlying the intensity of the moment. Lighting and shooting from below only heightens the power of the image.
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Slick Willie: THE RETURN OF KHUJO GOODIE BY BRET LOVE e’s been off hip-hop’s radar screen for a few years, but as one-fourth of Goodie Mob, Khujo (born Willie Knighton, Jr.) was one of the architects of Atlanta’s hip-hop scene. With the 1995 debut Soul Food, Goodie Mob introduced international audiences to the sound of the Dirty South, infusing rap music with heaping doses of gospel and soul. But when Cee-Lo left the quartet after the release of its third album, the group unraveled, never achieving the commercial success of Dungeon Family peers OutKast. After an overlooked solo album, an outing with Goodie Mob’s T-Mo as the Lumberjacks and an accident that left him with an amputated leg, Khujo has returned with a new project called Willie Isz, a collaboration with producer Jneiro Jarel that finds him charting more tripped-out sonic territory on the debut Georgiavania. In our recent conversation, he discussed the new album, his new outlook on life and that eagerly awaited Goodie Mob reunion.
Atlanta's hip-hop scene was primarily local before OutKast and Goodie Mob broke out. What was it about the Dungeon Family sound that made it resonate on such a universal level? We come from Georgia, and there’s a lot of great style here, from James Brown and Ray Charles to Curtis Mayfield. The first seven songs we did for Soul Food were recorded in Curtis Mayfield’s studio, so it was like we was getting that vibe and the guys were playing over [classic soul] samples and making a new sound. Once cats from up north and the West Coast heard that we were original and weren’t trying to be like nobody, they gave us a chance. I remember at the Source Awards in New York when OutKast got their five mics, everybody booed them. But if we hadn’t gotten that boo, I don’t think we would’ve been as great as we were. It’s original music and original lyrics, and everybody in the Dungeon Family has their own personality, kinda like the southern Wu-Tang [Clan].
A lot of people don't give you guys credit for coining the term "Dirty South." What does that phrase represent for you? The Dirty South slogan really meant to me that it was hard in the South to break that ceiling and get a major situation in the music industry. Now people are just playing dirty, ya know what I’m saying? It’s a dirty game, and people think they can just come to the South [to make it]. These country boys just don’t know that we play dirty down here, and that goes for the Confederate flag and the black flag.
industry and find out it’s more about the business side than the creative side, you gotta have somebody on your team that can handle that junk so you can stay creative.
Goodie Mob always seemed like such a tight-knit group. Can you talk about the circumstances that led to Cee-Lo going solo? It was kinda hard, because we was still young back in those days and we just couldn’t understand what was going on. Cee-Lo and our manager [were] going off doing other adventures, and CeeLo was like, “Man, I don’t wanna deal with him right now.” We thought it was just a little spat or something, but then we had to do a whole album and a tour of Japan by ourselves. We got off tour and wanted to record another album, but LaFace was like, “Y’all can’t record no album without Cee-Lo.” So we couldn’t tour, we couldn’t make money, we couldn’t put a record out… it looked real grim. We was upset about that and told LaFace we wanted out [of our contract]. They let us out, but they kept CeeLo. I just didn’t understand that. Then we got a situation with Koch [and released] One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, but everything that happened was real frustrating. Me and Gipp just had to keep pushing.
I remember at the Source Awards in New York when OutKast got their five mics, everybody booed them. But if we hadn’t gotten that boo, I don’t think we would’ve been as great as we were. Then you lost part of your leg in an auto accident in 2002. As a spiritual person, it was like God showed mercy on me. That day I’d just gotten my wax, because I was releasing my first solo album, The Man Not The Dawg. We were having a good time all day, then that night we went to one more club. I didn’t realize I had so much to drink until the airbag opened up on me. It blew me away, ’cuz when they rolled me into the hospital the doctor was like, “We’re gonna have to amputate that leg.” I never did get the chance to see my leg, but they said it looked like it had been in a meat grinder.
How do you feel about the way the Southern hiphop scene has evolved over the years?
How has that changed you as a person?
Well, it has changed, because once we opened that door everybody came through. We don’t have control over who comes out of the Dirty South. I like what’s goin’ on now because it keeps it fresh, even though I might not agree with everything that’s on the radio. My thing is balance: Some of these cats, their album is wack but they playin’ their one good song. But you can put on a Goodie Mob or OutKast CD and listen to the whole record.
You can just call me Humble Goodie, man. [Laughs] It’s been awhile now, and sometimes I forget about it. But I was moving kinda fast back then, coming home late all the time, so that [stuff] had to slow me down. It was a wake-up call. My wife was pregnant with my fourth son and we had to take the baby early, so I was in a wheelchair making breakfast while she was in there with the kids. We been through a lot of stuff…
You've always been one of hip-hop’s more spiritual MCs. What are the challenges of being a spiritual man in a soul-sucking industry?
What were the circumstances that brought you and Jneiro together to form Willie Isz?
You just gotta have that foundation, you know? Down here in the South, we went to church with our mamas and grandmamas, so we had a strong spiritual foundation. But once you get into the 42 | GEORGIA MUSIC
Jneiro found me and told me he had this remix he wanted me on. I didn’t know who he was, but music to me is always about creating something new. I got on the song and it was jammin’, so we decided to do a record together. We worked through the cyber-
PHOTO BY CARA PASTORE-
SUMMER 2009 | 43
world—he kept sending me music and I kept smashing—until we came up with a whole album.
What was it about his sound that appealed to you? That guy reminds me of Organized Noize’s production. The way he produces sounds a lot like OutKast, so I was like, “This feels like home; this is what I been missing.” It was kinda like a buffer for me, or like a crutch. But this guy is for real, and he’s released three other albums prior to this one. His system of doing things has been exercised real good.
Can you talk about what the concept behind Georgiavania means to you? There have been a lot of collabos lately, and Georgiavania was a better way of saying that this was a collaboration between Pennsylvania and Georgia. It’s kinda like psychedelic medieval chamber music, but with rap lyrics. The guy doesn’t just use samples—he plays on the stuff too—and it’s so outer space to me that we can go anywhere with it. It was cool, because Jneiro was like we can’t cuss on this record, which made it even tougher. I think people who like a variety of different songs on their record are gonna like this album.
How would you compare the Khujo of Willie Isz with the MC you were back in Goodie Mob's day? I’ve gotten better! My homeboy Shorty B, who produced Too
Q&A 44 | GEORGIA MUSIC
There have been rumors of a Goodie Mob reunion swirling for years, with an official announcement on V-103 back in 2007. Where does that stand now? We’ve been in the Dungeon working, but we still have a ways to go. Organized Noize is on the job with the production. We’ve already got seven songs together, and I think two of them are gonna be the meat of the album. The other ones remind me of World Party ’cuz we don’t have people crying, ya know? Music is still supposed to be entertaining, so have a couple of uptempo songs that can bang at the club. The vibe now is all love. We done got old and understand that a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Even though things were different when we was young, we never got mad at each other and ran up in each other’s houses, because it wasn’t anything serious. I went to the studio yesterday and saw Gipp and T-Mo, so now we’re just waiting on Cee-Lo. He’s finishing up a couple of projects that he’s got going on. Once he’s done with that, we’re gonna submit the songs to him and see which ones he thinks is the hypest. There’s no release date yet, but maybe in the winter. gM PHOTO BY CARA PASTORE-
KHUJP (L) GOODIE MOB COHORT T-MO
$hort, was like, “You be jamming, but I wanna see you rhyme more.” I took that to heart and I’ve been working on my style, trying not to keep people in left field. Now that I’ve gotten older, I can play around with words more than I could back in the Soul Food days. I think there’s always room for improvement, and I keep that in the back of my mind.
PHOTO BY CARA PASTORE-
It’s kinda like psychedelic medieval chamber music, but with rap lyrics. The guy doesn’t just use samples—he plays on the stuff too—and it’s so outer space to me that we can go anywhere with it.
Q&A SUMMER 2009 | 45
A GUITARS NOT GUNS VOLUNTEER ASSISTS A STUDENT
Fighting violence, one axe at a time GUITARS NOT GUNS ARRIVES IN GEORGIA BY CANDICE DYER
Customized instruction “My family taught me to how play,” Nelson says. “I decided 46 | GEORGIA MUSIC
these kids needed some lessons and that maybe music would keep them out of gangs. I was talking about it with a social worker who nodded and said ‘guitars, not guns,’ and a light just went off.” For any Second Amendment literalists out there, he is quick to point out that the organization is not anti-firearm. “It’s OK with me if you own a gun,” says a shrugging Nelson, who, with his white beard and kindly manner, looks like a trim Santa Claus. Adds his wife, “But until we eradicate child abuse and neglect, we need to help kids find alternatives to violence. These are invisible kids—even their teachers tend to look through them because they don’t know if the kids will be there tomorrow. So these children have so much anger, hurt and depression, but when they put that energy into music, a positive sound comes
(L-R) SUSAN LONG, RAY NELSON, GREG POTTER
out.” Not finding any instruction books tailored to their program’s unusual needs, the Nelsons developed their own for two levels of eight-week courses, to be taught by a team of at least three instructors for groups of eight to 12 students. “Underprivileged children are usually two or three years behind because they have
PHOTO BY JOHN CHARLES GRIFFIN
s with so many success stories, the formula behind Guitars Not Guns seems so natural as to be downright obvious, like something that should have been here all along. What teenager has ever picked up a guitar without noodling some chords? It is that rare irresistible impulse that does no harm. And when the songs come and those first fans begin to clap and swoon, the music of a guitar can drown out the other noise—adults fighting, taunts at school, gang violence. “I’ve always understood the power of music because when I was young, my guitar became my best friend,” says Ray Nelson, an Atlanta resident who founded Guitars Not Guns, an international music education program that helps students deflect the troubles around them. Or, as one of the group’s many testimonials puts it, “Let’s fill the world with music rather than the sounds of mothers weeping.” Nelson and his wife, Louise, became acutely aware of the dislocation that bruises some young lives when they took four teenage foster children into their home in San Jose, Calif., in 1992. “It’s a different world for foster kids, with most of them moving four or five times in high school,” he says. “I noticed that the one thing they all had in common was that they carried around a plastic bag with their clothes in it—and that was all they had.” Nelson, who had enjoyed a peripatetic career as a professional musician, thought of a keepsake as portable as it is productive. “A guitar is something they could travel with, and I knew a lot of musicians whose guitars were just sitting in back rooms, gathering dust,” he says. So he began collecting and distributing instruments, starting with foster-care children and then, as demand grew, began including other “at-risk and deserving” youth with support from the Gibson Foundation.
trouble focusing,” says Louise Nelson, who’s president of the program’s Georgia division. “Music works the right and left sides of their brains, and studies show that kids who are in a music program perform better in school. Their behavior gets calmer and their self-esteem improves. It’s like watching a flower unfold.”
‘Strum for change’ Since its inception in 2000, Guitars Not Guns has graduated more than 1,000 students in the United States and Canada, with social workers from England and other countries expressing interest.
Georgia’s first chapter was launched earlier this year in Augusta by Megan Allsup, a wise-beyond-her-years high school senior who believes that “music is a medicine that helps us both forget and remember.” With the rallying cry of “strum for change,” Allsup recruited members of her bass-playing brother’s band, Eleventhour, to volunteer as instructors. “I really look up to my teachers,” says a 14-year-old girl in the program. (Because of the sensitive nature of custody issues in the foster-care system, the students’ names are kept confidential.) “A lot of the people around me are turning to drugs and alcohol, but I think I want to play guitar instead.” She and her seven classmates graduated in March, and they all signed up for level two, including the youngest, a seven-yearold girl. “Her fingers are so tiny she can barely reach the strings,” Allsup says. “I think she learned patience.” Other chapters are coalescing across Georgia, with venerable roots rocker Caroline Aiken planning to teach in Athens. “I can't express fully how important music was in my life as
A YOUTHFUL PARTICIPANT STRUMS A CHORD
PHOTO BY MEGAN ALLSUP
These are invisible kids—even their teachers tend to look through them because they don’t know if the kids will be there tomorrow. So these children have so much anger, hurt and depression, but when they put that energy into music, a positive sound comes out.
a child, giving me a safe place, and now, how much it has done to put food on my table, and to strengthen my spirit and belief in the goodness of people,” Aiken says. “Music opens hearts. If I can turn a kid on to music's healing form of self-expression, maybe they will carry it with them the rest of their life and perhaps in turn give it to another kid somewhere down the line.” Plus, there’s the applause. For a field trip, the Augusta students were treated to frontrow seats at Eleventhour’s CD release party. “The kids screamed and asked for autographs and posed with the band for photos,” Allsup says. “You could tell they were really looking up to their teachers and thinking: That’s what I want to do—be a famous musician!” gM
CALENDAR: BUILD IT YOURSELF!! BUILD A BANJO: The Savannah Folk Music Society, in cooperation with the Ships of the Sea Museum, offers 25 aspiring banjoists the opportunity to assemble and own a 5-string banjo. The Banjo Building Workshop will be held Sat., Sept. 12 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Thanks to a donation of required parts by the Gretsch Foundation, attendees will assemble a Gretsch “Chicago” model 5-string banjo, including resonator, for a registration fee of only $30. Space is limited: to inquire or register, contact Hank Weisman at (912) 786-6953 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Online: Savannahfolk.org BUILD A GUITAR: Luthier Tim Joy of Atlanta Guitar Works offers intensive, six-week sessions in guitar building and repair. His shop is in Lilburn, where classes meet Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. with free shop time at night. Students build two guitars or basses from scratch, plus learn and practice essential guitar repair techniques and business practices. Housing at the Luthier Lodge is included in the course fee. Summer and early fall sessions are full; inquire now about the Nov. 9-Dec. 19 session or 2010 schedule. For more information, contact Tim Joy at (404) 374-8192 or email email@example.com. Online: AtlantaGuitarWorks.com
SUMMER 2009 | 47
BUILD A DULCIMER: Bob Thomason, an accomplished musician, storyteller and lecturer, has been making and playing Appalachian dulcimers since 1981. As co-founder of the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association, he works to keep the dulcimer tradition thriving. He presents his “Dulcimer in a Day” workshops at universities, colleges, state parks and other locations. However, if there are no workshops scheduled in your area, you’re still in luck. Thomason has designed an entry-level kit so you can build your own dulcimer at home. The back, top and sides of the dulcimer are made of Baltic Birch plywood and Thomason fabricates all the parts and pre-cuts pieces for ease of assembly. The $55 kit includes everything except glue, sandpaper, tools and finish. For a schedule of workshops or to order a kit, call Bob Thomason at (706) 865-6226 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Online: DulcimerBob.com
CALENDAR ONGOING: Through July 25 Mountain Music Series Red Top Mountain State Park, Cartersville Enjoy traditional sounds & bluegrass at Vaughn Cabin every Saturday thru July 25. gastateparks.org/info/redtop
Through Aug. 25 Sunflower Music Series State Botanical Garden, Athens Bring blankets and chairs to the new Flower Garden for Five-Eight on July 14 and Grogus on Aug. 25. uga.edu/botgarden
July 25 Bragg Jam Multi-venue, Macon
Hundreds flock to the lawn of the charming bed and breakfast for its annual concerts. This year, catch Lazy B and the Recliners, Grogus, Randall Bramblett, Mamaâ€™s Love and Dirk Howell. ambedandbreakfast.com
JULY July 10-11 Raccoon Creek Bluegrass Festival Raccoon Creek Music Park, Dallas Wholesome family fun with camping, concessions and bluegrass music with
GROGUS Concerts on the Lawn, Ashford Manor, Watkinsville July 27 48 | GEORGIA MUSIC
JOE DIFFIE Georgia Mountain Fair, Hiwasssee July 15-25
July 15-25 Georgia Mountain Fair Ga. Mountain Fairgrounds, Hiawassee The 59th annual Fair includes daily concerts, including Jimmy Wayne, Joe Diffie, Ronnie McDowell and others; midway rides, arts, crafts and more. georgiamountainfairgrounds.com
Through Labor Day Concerts on the Lawn Ashford Manor, Watkinsville
Lizzy Long & Friends, NewFound Road and many more. raccooncreekmusic.com
By day, families enjoy arts and activities along the Ocmulgee River and by night, over 40 bands perform on multiple stages in downtown Macon venues. braggjam.org
July 29-Aug. 2 National Black Arts Festival Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta The summer festival component of the year-round festival features diverse programming. nbaf.org
July 31, Aug. 1 Dillard Bluegrass & BBQ Festival Dillard Gospel and bluegrass bands provide
FIVE-EIGHT Sunflower Music Series, State Botanical Gardens, Athens July 14
the sounds and the Georgia State Championship Barbeque Cookoff provides the smoky aroma. dillardbbq.com
AUGUST Aug. 29 – 30 Grant Park Summer Shade Festival Grant Park, Atlanta
SEPTEMBER Sept. 5-6 Drive-Invasion Starlight Drive-In, Atlanta Cool movies, hot music, car show, overnight camping and wild tailgate party. driveinvasion.com
Sept. 17-19 Gram Parsons Guitar Pull & Tribute Festival Waycross Hosted in the town where Parsons grew up, the festival includes headliners Leon Russell and Charlie Louvin along with over 30 other Americana, rock and country acts. gramparsonsguitarpull.com
Sept. 17-26 Westobou Festival Multi-venue, Augusta The second annual 10-day event includes music, dance, theatre and visual arts. westoboufestival.com
Sept. 18-20 Elijah Clark 9th Annual Bluegrass Festival Elijah Clark State Park, Lincolnton Visit one of Georgia’s most beautiful state parks for three days of food and bluegrass. gastateparks.org
PHOTO BY JASON THRASHER
Live music, 5K run, children’s fun center and the Corks & Forks fine food & wine event enliven Atlanta’s oldest public park. gpconservancy.org
CRACKER Bragg Jam, Macon July 25
Sept. 19 31st Annual Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards Ga. World Congress Center, Atlanta The gala event honors the 2009 inductees. Individual tickets and tables available through Friends of Georgia Music, Inc. at (770) 4919494, ext. 15.
Sept. 20-27 Savannah Jazz Festival Forsyth Park, Savannah Hosted by the Coastal Jazz Association, the annual festival celebrates America’s art form through a week of free jazz performances. savannahjazzfestival.org
Sept. 24 8th Annual Bruce Burch and Friends Honor John Jarrard Concert Brenau Pearce Front Lawn, Gainesville Songwriters and Nashville performers gather to honor fellow songwriter Jarrard’s memory and raise money for deserving charities in North Georgia. johnjarrardconcert.com
AVETT BROTHERS Westobou Festival Augusta Sept. 17-26
ANNA KRAMER & THE LOST CAUSE Grant Park Summer Shade Festival Grant Park, Atlanta Aug. 29-30
CHARLIE LOUVIN Gram Parsons Guitar Pull & Tribute Festival Waycross Sept. 17-19
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PHOTO BY BRANTLEY GUTIERREZ
The Basement Tapes for a new era LONG-GESTATING ALBUM REVEALS SOUTHERN SONGWRITER’S PERSONAL JOURNEY
PATTERSON HOOD Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Stories) RUTH ST. 1994 was a very different time. It was the year the Rwandan genocide began, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black President, Bill Clinton was first accused of sexual harassment, the World Series was cancelled due to a strike, Kurt Cobain committed suicide, River Phoenix overdosed and O.J. Simpson was arrested for murdering his wife. Seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it? Coincidentally, 1994 was also the year a 30-year-old, largely unknown Alabama native named Patterson Hood moved to Athens. Born into a musical family—his father, David Hood, was longtime bassist for the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section and played with everyone from Aretha Franklin to Willie Nelson—the budding singer/songwriter had recently disbanded Adam’s House Cat (his critically acclaimed first group with Mike Cooley), gotten a divorce and moved away from his family to a town where he basically knew no
one. With no money, no band, a crappy job and a head reeling from all the upheaval in his life, Hood wrote an album’s worth of songs that he recorded on a tiny boombox in his roommate’s bedroom (which had better acoustics than his own) and gave cassette dubs to anyone and everyone he met. Before long, Cooley also had moved to Athens, the old friends had reunited, and the duo began working on the songs that eventually became the Drive-By Truckers’ first two albums, Gangstabilly and Pizza Deliverance. And the old songs? Those got stuffed away in a box, with Hood occasionally pulling one out for a solo show here and there. But mostly they lay largely forgotten for a solid decade. Flash forward to 2004, when Patterson Hood was in a very different place. The Drive-By Truckers were coming off a string of critically adored albums—2001’s Southern Rock Opera, 2003’s Decoration Day and 2004’s The Dirty South—and were taking some much-needed time off. The wild oats Hood had sown in his early thirties gave way to domestic bliss with the impending birth of his daughter Ava Ruth, and a wave of nostalgia led him to revisit the songs he’d written a decade before, writing new songs that provided a point/counterpoint feel. Within a few months he was at producer David Barbe’s Chase Park Transduction Studios, working
with his DBT bandmates, Don Chambers, two members of Centro-matic and even his father to record what would eventually become his second solo album. The opening title track is a classic blues-rock murder ballad, crawling along at a swampy snake’s pace as Hood snarls, “I don’t need forgiveness for my sins/I don’t need redemption for my sins/Got the satisfaction of a job well done/With my own bare hands.” The haunting “Pride of the Yankees” is a more mature waltz-time piano ballad that finds Hood insisting “Something is constantly scheming and brewing to make our lives a disaster movie,” while “I Understand Now” sounds like vintage DBT, rollicking along on a raucous Southern-rock riff that seems to beg you to pop another PBR and join the party. But the centerpiece of the album is “Screwtopia” and “Granddaddy,” subsequent songs that offer polar opposite views on traditional family life. One’s a brooding funk number, the other a perky bluegrass tune, but both kick major butt. Taken in historical context, Murdering Oscar seems like an apt summary of where Patterson Hood comes from, where he’s been along the way, and just how far he’s come since many of these songs were first written. It also leaves you hungry to find out where this consummate storyteller’s musical journey will lead next. – BRET LOVE
MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA Mean Everything To Nothing FAVORITE GENTLEMEN/ CANVASBACK
PHOTO BY JAMES MINCHIN III
MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA from Black Sabbath and R.E.M. to Jane’s Addiction, Nirvana and Neutral Milk Hotel without ever sounding derivative. Credit 22-year-old Hull’s intensely personal approach to songwriting, which tackles themes such as religion, relationships (Hull was married last year),
redemption and death with a maturity that belies his age. Mean Everything To Nothing is divided into two parts, the first six songs unfolding at an unrelenting pace and seamlessly blending from one into the next. Opening with the jangling guitars SUMMER 2009 | 51
Though you’d never have guessed it based on the DIY indie aesthetic of 2007’s I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child or the aching melancholy of last year’s Let My Pride Be What’s Left Behind EP, Manchester Orchestra isn’t satisfied with merely being Atlanta’s best band. If Mean Everything To Nothing is any indication, Andy Hull and company want to be the biggest band in the world. Produced by Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, The Shins), Manchester Orchestra’s second album manages to evoke comparisons to legends ranging
and off-kilter drumbeat of “The Only One,” the album really takes off with the propulsive angst of “Shake It Out” and the infectious sing-along of “I’ve Got Friends,” which sound destined to fill arenas. “Pride” slows the proceedings down to a sludge-metal crawl and ratchets up the dynamic intensity, while the grungepop of “In My Teeth” sounds like the best Nirvana song Kurt Cobain never wrote. The darkly funny “100 Dollars” provides a brief break in tension, but “I Can Feel A Hot One” is arguably the most heartbreaking ballad of the decade. By the time epic closer “The River” winds to its acoustic conclusion, Manchester Orchestra’s ambitions to be as vital as their musical idols seems crystal clear. Listening to these 11 tracks, there’s not a thing stopping them. – BRET LOVE
ASHER ROTH Asleep in the Bread Aisle SCHOOL BOY/SRC/UNIVERSAL MOTOWN If you’ve visited any music websites this year, chances are you’ve seen the name Asher Roth. He’s 23, white, silly and from the ’burbs of Philly. If you’ve heard the guy rap, you know his cadence rings remarkably similar to
PHOTO BY HANNIBAL MATTHEWS
ASHER ROTH 52 | GEORGIA MUSIC
Eminem’s. But beyond the aural resemblance, the two rappers have little in common. Em hangs with tough guys like 50 Cent and Dr. Dre; Ash does duets with pop staples Chester French and Keri Hilson. Em’s been known to threaten bodily harm to his own mother; Roth would rather tell the world of the sacrifices his father made so his family could live comfortably. While it’s a grave injustice to discount the Atlanta transplant as an Eminem imitator, it’s unforgivable to simply label him a clueless kid without a hip-hop pulse. “I Love College” may have been an iTunes smash, but it did zero for his street cred. For those who still doubt the young man’s mic skills, songs like the frantically paced “Lark On My Go-Cart” more than represent. Additionally, this college dropout—Kanye wears Louis Vuitton, but Asher rocks L.L. Bean—shows that rejection (“She Don’t Want a Man”) and frustration (“La Di Da”) are as much a part of his day as beer pong and cram sessions once were. Only in Ash’s world, they’re discussed atop colorful tracks primarily polished by producer Oren Yoel. Further distancing himself from youknow-who, Ash vents about the ways of the world (“Sour Patch Kids”) and grouses about a misplaced iPod (“Bad Day”), and it all feels genuine. Even when hip-hop luminaries like Cee-Lo (“Be By Myself”) and Busta Rhymes (“Lion’s Roar”) stop by, nothing seems artificial. And after three or four songs, Ash’s voice and Em’s won’t even sound the same. Believe the hype. – DEMARCO WILLIAMS
THE WOOD BROTHERS Up Above My Head SELF-RELEASED In music history, brother acts have always had a unique place of honor and respect. Whether it’s the rich fraternal harmonies of the Louvins and the Everlys, the funky musical interplay of the Jacksons, or the volatile collaborations of the Black Crowes’ Robinson brothers and the Gallaghers of Oasis, brothers rock. Merging their adjunctive but divergent musical directions, Oliver and Chris Wood present their third release, an 8song EP titled Up Above My Head. Between Wood Brothers projects, guitar player and vocalist Oliver works with several Georgia roots and blues bands (his tenure in the intermittently active King Johnson is one of the finer gigs in the Georgia music scene). Bassist and harmony singer Chris is the “Wood” in the progressive jazz band Medeski, Martin, & Wood. The former Blue Note recording artists decided to independently release this fine EP of favorite cover tunes, and on it they celebrate the music they love, free from a label’s influence. Featuring only vocals, guitar, and bass on most cuts, the album’s primitive,
down-home feel provides a perfect aural setting for these great songs. Whether hitting a fairly familiar groove on Allan Toussaint’s “Get Out Of My Life, Woman,” or channeling the Allman Brothers through the medium of Blind Willie McTell on “Midnight Rider,” Oliver and Chris give every song their own trademark sound. Even the artistic stretches work well, from Oliver’s relaxed vocal take on Billie Holiday’s “Comes Love” to the unique parlor music version of the Beatles’ “Fixing A Hole.” At a time when mainstream popular music seems to be hitting an artistic and qualitative nadir, true purveyors and lovers of roots-oriented styles like the Wood Brothers work to keep things alive and fresh. With Up Above My Head, they accomplish both of these goals. – JAMES KELLY
Genius: The Ultimate Collection II CONCORD
THE WOOD BROTHERS But there’s also a host of lesser-known classic tracks that casual fans may be unfamiliar with, including the recession blues of “Busted,” the fiery funk of “Sticks and Stones,” a countrified cover of Hank Williams’ “Take These Chains From My Heart” and the Big Band sound of the instrumental “One Mint Julep.” In the end, though nowhere near as comprehensive as Rhino’s box, the album proves an excellent summary of Brother Ray at his very best. – BRET LOVE
BLOODKIN Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again SCI-FIDELITY Ever since they were growing up in West Virginia, Bloodkin’s Danny Hutchens and Eric Carter have shared everything: a love of baseball and rock ’n’ roll, the experience of leaving home after high school, blazing hopeful and reckless toward Athens and a blankslate future. The two shared musical aspirations and years of epic nights on the road, setting fire to seedy dive bars with their soulful, poetic sound. Sadly, they
also shared a penchant for self-sabotage, eventually finding themselves in a harrowing drug-and-booze-fueled race to rock bottom. But now, after over two decades of making music together, the band that refused to give up the ghost has pulled itself together and made one of the best records of its underappreciated career. The appropriately titled Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again is full of passionate, life-affirming rock ’n’ roll with a renewed sense of purpose. Tr a c k s l i k e “ G h o s t R u n n e r, ” “Rhododendron” and “Summer in Georgia” drip with an intoxicating humidity; lightly fogged mirrors held up to band and listener alike, unapologetically suggesting self-examination. Rise Again expels demons, but also welcomes home intrepid travelers who look with wonder and amazement at the path in their wake and the road ahead, fully appreciating the fact that they’re still here, together, doing what they love. It’s a sentiment Hutchens sums up beautifully in “A Place to Crash”: “Hell and high water and hard times/Never faded our design/We stuck like speed freaks to our childhood deal/We got snake rash on the road/We got viperfish, we got cold/But inside, we never lost that feel.” It’s as true as Bloodkin’s words have ever rung. – STEVE LABATE SUMMER 2009 | 53
By my own conservative (and purely unscientific) estimate, there have been roughly 4,632 Ray Charles compilations released over the past 50 years, quite a few of which worked the vastly overused word “genius” into the title. But with the exception of Rhino’s remarkable 5-disc set, Genius & Soul: The 50th Anniversary Collection (one of the most essential boxed sets ever released), few come close to this concise CD in terms of capturing the depth and breadth of the Georgia legend’s influential genius. The Albany native is widely credited with merging ’50s R&B with gospel elements to create the sound known as soul music, but he’s rarely given proper credit for his contributions to the jazz and country worlds (it’d be hard to imagine a Darius Rucker crossover if Charles hadn’t done it 40 years earlier). The diversity of the 21 tracks here, which represent his best work during his most essential era— from his 1955 breakthrough hit “I’ve Got A Woman” to his passionate 1972 rendering of “America The Beautiful”—prove that Brother Ray could tackle any musical style he set his mind to with equal aplomb. All of your favorite Ray Charles tracks are present and accounted for, from the ubiquitous kiss-off “Hit The Road Jack” and the rollicking boogie of “What’d I Say (Part 1)” to the slinky jazz of “Unchain My Heart” and the sentimental pop balladry of “Georgia On My Mind.”
PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN LANTRY
plex drumming would fit just as well on a John Zorn track. “Start Wrong” boasts one of the most beautiful melodies Herren’s ever written, while “Epidemic Episodes of Epidemics” may be as close as he gets to an actual pop song. None of this is what you’d call easy listening, as harmonic dissonance remains one of Herren’s best friends. But together, these albums showcase an inventive artist constantly pushing the boundaries of his own creativity, challenging himself and his listeners in the process. – BRET LOVE
PREFUSE 73 Everything She Touched Tur ned Ampexian
DIAMOND WATCH WRISTS Ice Capped At Both Ends WARP One of the few prominent electronic artists to emerge from Atlanta, Guillermo Scott Herren has always been one of the genre’s most enigmatic eclectics, marching to a distinctive beat miles away from the mainstream. That doesn’t change on these new releases, each of which showcases different sides of his musical personality. Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, his sixth LP under the Prefuse 73 moniker, features 29 tracks of idiosyncratic glitch-hop, most of which clock in at under two minutes. By the time you’ve started nodding along to the tripped-out beats and alien sounds of songs such as “Hairy Faces (Stress)” and “Half Up Front,” they’re already over and Herren’s leading you on yet another mad scientist’s experimental audio journey. The effect is like stumbling on some cosmic radio station, with songs shifting in and out of focus as the satellites beaming them in from
CAN!!CAN All Hell STICKFIGURE
GUILLERMO SCOTT HERREN space vie for control of the transmission. Diamond Watch Wrists (his collaboration with drummer Zach Hill) finds Herren handling guitar, bass, pedal steel, clarinet and vocal duties to create longer tracks that blend elements of folk, free jazz, krautrock and ’60s psychedelia. The acoustic guitar and multi-tracked vocals of the opening “My Last Time In This Place” wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Pink Floyd record, but Hill’s com-
With the addition of drummer Josh Lamar, CAN!!CAN has evolved from a minimalist duo to a raw, propulsive trio. The songs are just as cryptic as on the band’s EPs, with cautionary tales spun from the fanatical vocal delivery of Patrick A (Love Drunks) and the econo-pop guitar blasts of Mary Frances Collins (MotoLitas). Joined in the freak show/tent revival by Lamar, the new songs bristle with flashes of Biblical doom and punk prophesy. Live, CAN!!CAN is a carnal, cerebral carnival anointed by Jewish/Kabbalistic themes, as Patrick A works the crowd like tent-revivalist Marjoe Gortner crossed with the Violent Femmes’ Gordon Gano. But stripped of the visuals, the sermon on the disc takes a more direct approach. Opening with “Hexed Ibex,” the clever unit makes the most of their unbridled urges. The album’s appropriate title stems from the centerpiece, “All Hell Breaks Loose,” a devilish excursion into intensity where sincere punk resides safely out of the convoluted mainstream. Look for their follow-up this summer, tentatively entitled Monsters And Healers. – LEE VALENTINE SMITH
MAMA LUCKY Per manent Stranger
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For some time now, Jim White has reigned and suffered as o n e o f t h e S o u t h ’s most poignant but underappreciated singer/songwriters. On his latest release, a collaborative effort, White trades singing for songwriting
while blues songstress Linda Delgado (who he discovered in his hometown of Pensacola) handles vocal duties. Delgado’s rich alto and cryptic delivery add a new layer to White’s gothic tapestry. Likewise, studio ace Tucker Martine serves as White’s co-producer/co-engineer, and his penchant for sharp arrangements provides a lovely counterpoint to White’s loose, haunted songs, especially on standout tracks like “House of the Unknown” and “These Are My Tattoos.” White has always had a penchant for exploring the fringe, and while most artists are content to settle mining where the typical meets the atypical, White’s viewpoint is almost always squarely in the periphery, trying to make sense of the mainstream. The aptly titled Permanent Stranger is no different—and no less intriguing. – PALMER HOUCHINS
ZOROASTER Voice of Satur n STICKFIGURE Despite the fact that it's arguably the band's most accessible release to date, Zoroaster's third release requires a patient listener. Unlike many of its metal contemporaries, the experimental Atlanta trio often chooses to forego the instant gratification of speedier thrash bands and catchy riffage, instead letting songs build at a near-glacial pace. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Case in point, the shoegaze-influenced guitars of “Seeing the Dark” acquiesce to a pianoand acoustic guitar-led interlude a few minutes in, eventually rejoining to form a decidedly lovely combination. And while
"Undying" echoes the group's earlier, syrup-slow work (think: “Hasn't it been, like, 30 seconds since he last hit that snare drum?”), the upbeat "White Dwarf" is reminiscent of another prominent Atlanta metal act's repertoire. Indeed, Mastodon's Brent Hinds lends his fretwork to the tune in the form of a scorching, psychedelia-tinged solo. Sometimes patience is rewarded. – AUSTIN L. RAY
STATE OF MAN In This Place POLYPLAT Formed in 2000, this multi-racial Atlanta quartet has been gradually building buzz over the years, winning a high-profile Battle of the Bands, earning a write-up in Rolling Stone and landing a single on the Billboard charts. But despite touring the world in recent years playing for soldiers stationed overseas, State of Man remains a somewhat unknown commodity. They clearly hope to change that with In This Place, their slickest and most commercial recording to date. Produced by Rick Beato, the album features immensely accessible anthems such as the devotional “Be Still (My Heart),” the inspirational title track and the arenaready “Swallow Your Fears.” While the radio-friendly sound (which recalls ’90s rockers such as Collective Soul and Creed) seems a bit outdated, it’s refreshing to hear a band with the guts to believe its music can actually change people’s lives for the better. – BRET LOVE
VAN HUNT Use In Case Of Emergency SELF-RELEASED
Van Hunt, who spent six years signed to EMI’s Capitol Records, would’ve been well within his rights to come into this 11-track indie release sounding beaten down, yet another unique voice chewed up and spat out by the major-label music machine. A year ago, the former Atlantan had his EMI deal shifted into a spot on the roster of legendary jazz label Blue Note Records, a seemingly copasetic pairing. All was right… until it went wrong. Thankfully, there’s nothing downtrodden about Use In Case of Emergency. On the
contrary, these unreleased tunes from Van’s vault compose his most melodic collection to date. Songs like “Come Tomorrow,” “Saturday Lights” and “Her Smile” are fluttery, sweet tracks Maxwell would kill for. “Tingle” is arguably the album’s summit, as Hunt serenades atop a Curtis Mayfield-cool groove that won’t quit. Ironically, the same goes for the rest of the feel-good album, which dawned right after one of Van Hunt’s darkest periods. – DEMARCO WILLIAMS
KING KHAN & THE SHRINES What Is?! WARP The son of Indian immigrants, raised in Montreal and living in Germany, Erick “King” Khan may not seem the most likely candidate for a garage-punk icon. But his sizzling stage shows with his band (often known as the Sensational Shrines and featuring a former Curtis Mayfield/Stevie Wonder sideman, a Sun Ra acolyte and a go-go dancer) are becoming the stuff of legend. He’s also an Atlanta regular thanks to friendships with the Black Lips and Deerhunter, both of which have recorded at his home studio. This re-release of his 2007 import perfectly captures the band’s shambling charm, which sounds like Jon Spencer and the Stooges jamming on a Nuggetsera psychedelic soul vibe. The blistering
horn section adds an element of originality—it’s not hard to imagine these guys opening for soul revisionists such as Sharon Jones—but Khan’s larger-than-life personality is reason enough to love What Is?! – BRET LOVE
TODD SNIDER The Excitement Plan YEP ROC Todd Snider made a huge pledge for his new LP, saying it would save the economy. It won’t surprise anyone who’s heard his witty, bedraggled folk to find that the end result feels nowhere near that ambitious. Snider, who spent part of his formative years in Atlanta, doesn’t attack Wall Street or the government. Instead, he offers a dozen songs demonstrating how liberating it can be to acknowledge the uniqueness of one’s circumstances. The refrain of “Slim Chance” sets the tone: “a slim chance is still a chance.” From there, Snider unearths humor in a pitcher throwing a no-hitter on LSD (“America’s Favorite Pastime”), a tree-turned-newspaper who hopes to grow (“Dollface”) and other absurdities. Snider addresses his listeners like barroom intimates, delivering stories and punchlines in a sly, confiding way. Scruffy talking-blues dominates the album, which was produced by Don Was, and in this case the decision not to stress over the music feels right. – JEWLY HIGHT
PHOTO BY NATASHA PAPADOPOULOU
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DEERHUNTER Rainwater Cassette Exchange KRANKY Boy, Bradford Cox is prolific: If he's not putting out a record with Deerhunter, he’s putting out one with his solo outlet (Atlas Sound) or releasing remixes or EPs via his blog. If he’s not populating the interwebs with tunes, he’s collaborating with other indie-rock ATLiens. All the while, he’s following his muse wherever it may lead. This time, we get a 5-song set recorded in Brooklyn that dabbles in tropical shuffles (the title track), Strokes-like propulsive rock ’n’ roll (“Disappearing Ink”) and catchy space jams (“Famous Last Words”), amongst other whims. It's yet another step in the mainstream pop direction for a band so consistently lumped in with “noise” acts upon its hyped inception. But it’s hard to predict whether or not that trajectory will continue, considering the fact that the time it took to write this review was likely enough for Cox to record and release something new. – AUSTIN L. RAY
SAM & DAVE AND VARIOUS ARTISTS Stax/Volt Revue: Live In Norway 1967 STAX It’s likely that more Norwegians saw Sam & Dave in their youthful zenith than all the townspeople from the duo’s Georgia birthplaces, Fort Valley and Ocilla. And judging from the foot-stomping response by the audience crammed into a vast Oslo auditorium, even the brashest of southern-bred soul men could bring down the house in this austere land. The 1967 tour (in which Sam & Dave shared the marquee with Otis Redding and Booker T. and the M.G.’s ) captured in all its heat and sensuality on this DVD was an epiphany for performers and promoters alike, who were stunned at the welcome American soul received on foreign soil. Sam & Dave (Sam Moore and Dave Prater) appear for five songs, dancing in the aisles and rousting concertgoers during the final number, “Hold on, I’m Coming.” Although top billing went to Redding, the pair gave off the selfassurance of headliners. – ALAN SVERDLIK
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Gospel music pioneer Eva Mae LeFevre died on May 18, 2009, at the age of 91. Born the daughter of Reverend and Mrs. H. L. Whittington in McCall, S.C. in 1917, she was singing and playing pump organ in her father’s church before she was even six years old. At eight years old, she happened to meet three singing LeFevre siblings, Urias (lead), Alphus (tenor) and Maude (alto), who performed at her father’s church—in Chattanooga, Tenn. at that time—as the LeFevre Trio. Nine years later, Urias and Eva Mae were married. She joined the singing group (which Maude left after tying the knot herself), and in 1939, The LeFevres, now also including a bass singer, moved to Atlanta, which was emerging as a gospel music center. They performed in concerts and on radio station WGST, where their show ran for 10 years. During this busy time, Eva Mae also gave birth to five children, of which Pierce, Meurice and Mylon later became professional musicians themselves. In the 1960s, Urias was the producer, Eva Mae was the emcee and the LeFevres were a regularly featured act on the television show, Gospel Singing Caravan, which was syndicated nationwide and brought the group widespread fame and fans. It is said that the LeFevres were trailblazers in many ways, and former Governor Zell Miller noted in his book, They Heard Georgia Singing, that they were the first to “use more than one microphone as they sang, to wear red jackets on stage, to own and travel by custom tour bus and to build, own and operate their own recording studio.” Although Eva Mae retired in 1977 and Urias died in 1978, she continued to sing in church and performed often as part of Bill Gaither’s Homecoming concerts. She said in Gov. Miller’s book, “I sacrificed a lot to be a gospel singer. I never had a social life. I never got to spend a lot of time with my children. I feel I was anointed from my mother’s womb to sing His praises and to tell of His love, but to me it was worth every minute of it … If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same way. I am a gospel singer and I will be a gospel singer until I die.” Eva Mae LeFevre was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1977, the first living woman to receive that honor, and in 1985, she was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. – LISA LOVE gM
Eva Mae LeFevre 1917-2009
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