Kool Kat of the Week: Digging Deep to Her Rockabilly Roots for a Breakthrough Album: Why It’s Worth Following Kim Lenz to Smith’s Olde Bar

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2013 By:

Kim Lenz. Photo credit: Joseph Cutice.

Los Angeles-based rockabilly-roots musician Kim Lenz  and The Jaguars are no strangers to Atlanta, having played heard numerous times since she launched her career in 1998, but her return to Smith’s Olde Bar on Wed. August 14 is more than a little bit extra special. Her current US Tour supports a new album FOLLOW ME, due for release on Aug. 20 from Riley Records, which has received considerable advance budge beyond the roots community including from Country Music Television’s “Edge” Website.

Reflecting the impact of some recent life challenges for Kim, the new LP’s lyrics are a bit more serious and emotionally heavy and like so many great rockabilly and country women before her, a nice dose of female empowerment. The title track, “Follow Me,” is being compared to a range of amazing vocalists from Wanda Jackson to Amy Winehouse. The scarlet-tressed songstress also has some serious musical muscle behind the scenes since it’s produced by roots music icon Carl Sonny Leyland and recorded by Los Straitjackets bassist Pete Curry. In other words, despite some serious subject matter, it still puts the rock in rockabailly.

Kim has always been a mighty Kool Kat to ATLRetro, so we decided to catch up with her this week to find out more about her new songs and why you should follow her to her and The Jaguars’ Atlanta gig, which incidentally is opened by Chickens and Pigs with special guest Mark Johnson of Delta Moon.

ATLRetro: Your new album FOLLOW ME has been getting some pretty exciting advance buzz. How does it build upon your prior work and take you to the next level? 

Kim Lenz: I love American roots music and that’s what I’ve been doing via rockabilly for a number of years. My new record goes a little further into the roots and I also stretched myself as a songwriter… digging deeper into personal places.

You opted to record FOLLOW ME on vintage tube gear to two-inch tape in mono. Why stay retro when there have been such advances in recording technology?

There is a certain magic when dealing with tubes and tape and plate reverb and such. Modern technology has its place, but starting with yummy ingredients is important in my opinion.

The title track, “Follow Me,” is one amazing female empowerment anthem. I understand it comes out of a recent dark time for you, including learning that you were adopted and the death of your long-time guitarist Nick Curran last fall. Can you talk a bit about the genesis of the song and what you hope others will take from it?

Most of my life I felt like I was so tough. But the last couple years knocked me down. So far I wasn’t sure I could get back up. Music has always been the best way for me to cope with life in general.  I dealt with quite a bit of abuse growing up. This song is about taking back the real power of being a woman.

“Follow Me” is not the only song on the album that deals with life challenges. There’s a long history of female country vocalists who met hard issues head-on. Was there any one who has especially inspired you recently?

Strangely I rarely think of myself as a “female” musician. I think all artists use what they do to deal with life head-on. The ones I respect anyway. If I had to list he people who inspire me, it would be too many to print.

I take it, however, that this album is hardly a downer. You’ve said that producer Carl Sunny Leyland “took these sad songs and put a sparkle on them.” What was it like to work with him and can you expand on what you mean by that?

Carl is a genius. One of the if not the best roots musician on the planet. I brought these songs to him. He easily was able to see my vision but brought them out of the dark.

Any other songs on the album you’d like to single out for listeners to especially look out for?

We just finished making a video for “Pay Dearly.” It’s really dark and cool!

Kim Lenz. Photo credit: Joseph Cutice.

Do you and the band have anything special planned for this tour and/or your Atlanta stop?

Record digging!!!!

You’ve toured through Atlanta quite a few times over the years. Do you have any favorite must-do things when you’re here?

We usually rock out and drink too much!!!

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, Feb. 21-27, 2011

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2011 By:

It’s a veritable luau feast for Retro activities in Atlanta this week, and ATLRetro has some tough decisions about what to do, especially on Saturday night.

Monday Feb. 21

Joe Gransden & his smokin’ 16-piece orchestra present another Big Band Night of jazz at Café 290, featuring Sinatra, Bennett, Basie and Joe’s originals.

Tuesday Feb. 22

The current incarnation of seminal progressive rockers The Church play their haunting melodies not just under the Milky Way but at Variety Playhouse. Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra are at Symphony Hall. Or if you live on the east side, swing dance to the Atlanta-New York Connection at the unlikely location of Northlake Mall’s Food Garden starting at 6 PM. Then head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM.

Wednesday Feb. 23

“If Elvis had been a woman, he probably would have sounded just like Kim Lenz,” says Rolling Stone. Decide for yourself when the scarlet-haired rockabilly queen brings her fiery voice to the Star Bar with her band The Jaguars. And if the night weren’t rockin’ enough, local faves Atomic Rockets and Junior, Dolan & Cash are also on the bill. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at The Glenwood. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Shake, Rattle & Spring Roll – Spike Fullerton, Guitarist, Ghost Riders Car Club

Posted on: Feb 2nd, 2011 By:

Ghost Riders Car Club guitarist Spike Fullerton agrees that Pho Truc, a Vietnamese restaurant in Clarkston, may seem like an unlikely place to find live rockabilly and honkytonk, but don’t let appearance deceive you Thursday nights this month. With their characteristic sense of humor, the band, which features some of Atlanta’s top professional musicians, has dubbed these gigs “Tet 2011: A Guaranteed Nguyen,” a pun on the common Vietnamese surname which is pronounced “win.”

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