Kool Kat of the Week: Darcy Malone & The Tangle Swoop in from the Big Easy and Get Scandalous with a Night of Sizzlin’ Rock ‘n’ Soul at Smith’s Olde Bar

Posted on: Mar 1st, 2016 By:
Darcy High Res

Photo by Sharon Pye

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Genre-bending Atlanta newcomers, Darcy Malone & The Tangle hail from the Big Easy, and plan to dish out rockin’ soul at Smith’s Olde Bar this Saturday, March 5! It’ll be a night of sizzlin’ rock ‘n’ roll chock full of New Orleans nostalgia twisted with a bit ‘o jazz, pop-rock and everything in between! Janglin’ it up with The Tangle will be indie folksy pop chanteuse Joanna Duff and Athens rock quartet, Southern Bred Co.! Doors at 9 pm.

Darcy Malone & The Tangle [Darcy Malone (lead vocals); Jagon Eldrige (sax-keys); Chris Boye (guitar-vocals); Glenn Newbauer (guitar); Craig Toomey (bass-vocals); and Billy Schell (drums)] began dishing out their brand of swampy rock ‘n’ soul in 2013. With a debut album releasing at the end of the month (STILL LIFE), produced by Rick Nelson (The Afghan Whigs), the sky seems to be the limit for this group of rockin’ riff-raff. Darcy, daughter of New Orleans’ own Dave Malone (The Radiators) has been peddlin’ tunes as long as she can remember and plans to take the world by storm, one gig at a time, she says.

ATLRetro caught up with Darcy for a quick interview about the history of The Tangle; the band’s rockin’ retro influences; and their debut album, STILL LIFE! And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Darcy, check out the band at Gasa Gasa here (June 27, 2015).

ATLRetro: With a band name like Darcy Malone & The Tangle, it sure sounds like you guys are up to no good, which of course we can’t help but like! Can you tell our readers about The Tangle and how you and your fellas got together as a group?

Darcy Malone: Well, there’s no fun unless you’re up to- a little bit of – no good right? But those are probably stories for another time. Ha! The name “The Tangle” actually refers to our backgrounds as musicians. We all hail from different backgrounds and influences making our sound become a “tangle of genres,” which I think is how we have such a unique style and sound especially for a band out of New Orleans. As for how we became a group, there are several stories behind that. Chris and I started playing music together in 2003 and that turned into a relationship, which turned into a marriage. We evacuated to Austin after Katrina and came back and gathered up these dudes, and it finally became what we’d been trying to create for years. Many of us had history together. And some we met over Craigslist. Believe it or not, that’s how we met Craig. Ha!

Photo by Jerry Moran (L-R: Glen Newbauer, Billy Schell, Craig Toomey, Darcy Malone, Chris Boye, Jagon Eldridge)

Photo by Sharon Pye (L-R: Glen Newbauer, Billy Schell, Craig Toomey, Darcy Malone, Chris Boye, Jagon Eldridge)

Hailing from the Big Easy and the land of jazz and “swamp rock,” it must have been amazing being surrounded by layers upon layers of musical history. Can you tell our readers about your musical upbringing and what stirred you to share your love of music?

Growing up in NOLA, you are around not only jazz and swamp rock but lots of funk, blues, jams, etc. I personally grew up right in the middle of it. I came from a musical family known for their contributions to the New Orleans music scene. My dad being from the Radiators [one of the most successful rock bands out of NOLA] influenced me very heavily. I was singing all the time. Went to many gigs at places where kids maybe shouldn’t be, with both my dad and mom. And music was just in our blood. There wasn’t a day we lived without it. There was no way in hell I wasn’t gonna be a musician of some sort. And as a result I met many different types of players and performers and got to perform in many different styles. I think this really shaped up the type of singer and songwriter I am today for sure. I got to be around some pretty amazing musicians. And I studied every move, every note, every style, EVERYTHING.

Being the child of a musician is an opportunity that most don’t get the chance to experience. What was it like growing up in a house full of music?

It was definitely not your typical childhood. It was really nice to have holidays with guitars out and singing songs, but I also went to a lot of gigs at festivals, sometimes in clubs, and sometimes on the road. It was fun to get to stay in a hotel room and eat room service and see cool music and meet cool people. I remember going with my dad to Memphis when he was recording one of his albums and getting to go to Graceland and Sun Studios. For a kid who was my age at that time, it may not have been first choice to do, but I was beyond ecstatic. I think I learned a lot about good music 12743799_10153925485543684_8832102441247908944_nearly. I knew at 5 who the Beatles were and my first big concert at 8 was Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I feel really lucky to have been taught early on about the good stuff. It, of course, did have its downs, too. If I wasn’t able to go on the road, it meant I was home and dad wasn’t. So that part of it was a bit if a bummer. But he was young, single and living the rock star life. With me and Chris both being in this band, we hope to take our son to as much as we possibly can!

We read that you draw personal inspiration from soul singers and ‘60s girl groups. What is it exactly about them that inspire you?

There is something so raw about someone like Ronnie Spector, or Darlene Love. And for me, it’s not just the girl groups of the ‘60s, but a lot of the girls then like Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield, Bonnie Bramlett. They sang with effortless soul. And it was gut-wrenching and so amazing it could make you cry or get massive goosebumps. They didn’t do it with lots of vocal trills or 100% perfect pitch. They did it with flaws and guts. It was real raw emotion that came straight from the heart. That’s the type of singer I always want to be.

Who would you say are your top three most influential retro musicians/singers? And what is it about them that inspires you?

Only three???!! Tina Turner – she can out-sing any dude, moves like a tornado and is just one badass mama. Cyndi Lauper – Quirky, sings from the gut and doesn’t give a “you know what” what anyone thinks about it. Her voice is and will always be unbelievable. Ronnie Spector– had a distinctive voice that literally made a song, and did it effortlessly and with style. Honorable mentions of course are Janis Joplin, Bette Midler, Donny Hathaway and Elvis Costello.

Your sound has been described as being influenced by pop/rock, new wave, soul, R&B and more. How would you describe your sound to our readers?

You just did! It literally is a “tangle of genres”! We don’t conform to one standard genre. Music fulfills a mood. There’s something on our record for everyone.

darcy_malone_vertical liveCan you tell our readers a little about your debut album, STILL LIFE, produced by Rick Nelson (Afghan Whigs), which is set to be released on March 25? And how can we get our hands on it?

The title track is about being yourself. Don’t live the still and stale life of what people think you should be like or look like. Be yourself and you’ll always be happy and in control. This record really is a piece of work that we are very proud of. And we couldn’t have done it without Rick’s ear and guidance. I just simply cannot wait for everyone to hear it. The release is at legendary Tipitina’s in New Orleans on Saturday March 26.  Then it will be available in record stores, online via iTunes, Amazon etc., and of course on our website. We are also going to have vinyl soon! So be on the lookout for that!

The band has been around since 2013. Which venue would you say is your favorite so far, and if you could play anywhere you’d like, where would that be?

Favorite New Orleans venue so far has been Tipitina’s. It’s a classically wonderful place to play. Out of town, The Nick in Birmingham has been my fave – such great people and such a cool venue. I want to play everywhere! There’s no limitation to that!

If you could put together a dream line-up of musicians to play with [still around or not], who would it be?

Oh man…..such a great question. I’ve had so many fantasies about this. Combining both around and not? Well let’s say the obvious…The Beatles, along with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, Blondie, The Pixies, Cyndi Lauper, Alabama Shakes and us. And that’s just one stage ’cause this is a festival right? Man, what a weird and awesome lineup!

Anything scandalous planned for your shakin’ shindig at Smith’s Olde Bar on March 5?

We’ve always got a fun bag of tricks involved, but you will just have to come to the show to see them!

Photo by Jerry Moran (L-R: Jagon Eldridge, Glen Newbauer, Billy Schell, Darcy Malone, Craig Toomey, Chris Boye)

Photo by Jerry Moran (L-R: Jagon Eldridge, Glen Newbauer, Billy Schell, Darcy Malone, Craig Toomey, Chris Boye)

What’s next for Darcy Malone & The Tangle?

More records? National tours? We are ready for it all! In the meantime we will keep playing and writing and trying to live the dream.

Anything else you’re dying to tell ATLRetro readers about yourself? The Tangle?

This will be my first venture to Atlanta! I’m a crazy dancer, and I’m so ready to shake it with you guys. Come talk to us at the show! We love making new friends!

Photos provided by Darcy Malone & The Tangle and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Genre-Bending, Vintage Rock ‘n’ Roll Slingin’, Nashville Soul Revivalist, Will Stewart of Willie and the Giant, has Rhythm, So Who Could Ask for Anything More?

Posted on: Oct 14th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/
Contributing Writer

L-R Grant Prettyman, Mac Kramer, Jon Poor, Will Stewart. Photo Credit: Abbey Grace Henley

L-R Grant Prettyman, Mac Kramer, Jon Poor, Will Stewart. Photo Credit: Abbey Grace Henley

Willie and the Giant, vintage rock ‘n’ roll slingers will be takin’ Atlanta by storm at Smith’s Olde Bar this Saturday, Oct. 18 on their tour through the South! Their newly pressed 7-inch vinyl, debuting two singles reeking of nostalgia, “Ain’t Gonna Wait” and “Poor Boy,” both cut and recorded live at the ever comfy and throwback studio, Welcome to 1979, will be up for grabs! So, rock out, get a whole lotta rhythm, shake a tail feather and don’t forget to snag up a 7-inch or two! Acoustic folk and blues duo, Alex & Todd are along for the rhythmic ride, so come on down for a rockin’ retro ruckus this Saturday night at Smith’s Olde Bar!

Willie and the Giant, musical sons of Nashville and Birmingham, is made up of Will Stewart (vocals/guitar), Jon “The Giant” Poor (vocals/guitar), Grant Prettyman (bass) and Mac Kramer (drums). Not only has the group released two new singles, but a self-titled album is on the horizon for 2015, with their brand new label, Cumberland Brothers Music, run by Nick Worley, the band’s producer and engineer.The new album will be filled to the brim with an explosion of sounds with nods to American roots rock, ‘70s funk and more! Willie and the Giant, bathing in the blood, sweat and tears of vintage rock ‘n’ roll, are groovin’ to the top and have no plans to slow the momentum any time soon!

ATLRetro caught up with Stewart, for a quick interview about Willie and the Giant’s headfirst dive into rock ‘n’ roll, their new singles and record deal with Cumberland Brothers Music and their aversion to music labels and genres.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Stewart, take a listen to Willie and the Giant’s “Ain’t Gonna Wait”/”Poor Boy” single, here.

ATLRetro: Can you tell folks how you found the “Giant” and the rest of your band-mates and what brought you guys together?

Will Stewart: I moved from Birmingham to Nashville in November 2012. By coincidence, Jon Poor (“Giant”) and Mac Kramer (drums) moved from Birmingham to Nashville at the exact same time (We didn’t know each other while living in Birmingham.) They moved into a house with my then-bandmate Nick (also a Birmingham transplant), and that’s how we eventually met. The rest, as they say, is history.

There’s got to be a story behind the band’s name. Can you fill our readers in?

Photo Credit: Jack Smith

Photo Credit: Jack Smith

My height is pretty average and Jon is 6’5″ on a good day. There’s a video of us playing a show a few years back in which the camera exaggerates his height and has the opposite effect for my height. We thought it was hilarious and jokingly said, “Willie and the Giant!” When we formed the band, that name immediately came to mind as the obvious choice for the band name. We also think the “Giant” is a nice metaphor for our monster rhythm section – it could go a few different ways I suppose.

Can you tell folks a little about your debut singles, “Ain’t Gonna Wait” and “Poor Boy,” released this past September?

These two tunes just go really well together. I wrote these when I first moved to Nashville in late 2012, before the formation of WATG but thought they would fit into the set we were building in the early months of the band. I was listening to a lot of songs from the early/mid-sixties Chess Records and Atlantic Records R&B catalogs and almost every song seemed to be about breaking-up or falling in/out of love. So these tunes were sort of born out of that period of listening – it’s a tip of the hat musically and lyrically to that era.   

L-R Mac Kramer, Will Stewart, Jon Poor, Grant Pettyman. Photo Credit: Sarah Sellari

L-R Mac Kramer, Will Stewart, Jon Poor, Grant Prettyman. Photo Credit: Sarah Sellari

Any special tricks on snagging the jazzy award-winning, The Chad Fisher Group, known for backing Greg Allman, and legendary groups, like The Temptations, The O’Jays and the Four Tops, for your debut singles?

Well, being from Birmingham, we had nothing but respect and admiration for Chad Fisher – he’s an institution in Birmingham and when we decided to use horns on these two tracks we knew immediately that we wanted Chad Fisher Horns to play and arrange the parts. 

How exciting to not only get offered a rockin’ record deal, but to be the first group to sign with the new label, Cumberland Brothers Music. Can you tell folks a little about how you were discovered?

It’s incredibly exciting and we’re all very grateful to be part of the Cumberland Brothers family. Nick Worley and I met in late 2012. We shared very similar tastes in music, so I approached him about recording some demos in early 2013. After that we continued working on other projects and some months passed. Later, I got a call one day from Nick saying that he was starting a label and wanted me to be a part of it. As a musician, it’s one of those things you always fantasize about, so when it actually happened I was just thrilled and very grateful for the opportunity.

L-R Mac Kramer, Will Stewart, Grant Pettyman, Jon Poor. Photo Credit: Abbey Grace Henley

L-R Mac Kramer, Will Stewart, Grant Prettyman, Jon Poor. Photo Credit: Abbey Grace Henley

How would you, as a musician, describe your band’s sound? Willie and the Giant has been described as being like, “M. Ward fronting a Memphis soul revue,” groove rock and a vintage soul revival. Was this intentional, or did it just happen?

People are going to throw around labels and genres pretty loosely, that’s just how it is. Obviously, our first two singles are our interpretation of early American R&B, so we’ve heard the “soul” thing quite a bit (not that that’s a bad thing). That said, our forthcoming full-length and live show is a smattering (word of the day!) of American roots and rock to British invasion to 70s funk to modern indie and pop. So I’m going to stop short of labeling and just let folks listen and decide for themselves. Ultimately we want to be a band whose music is very difficult to label.

Who are some of your favorite vintage performers and influences?

I’ll just keep this pre-1965: Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, The Impressions, Solomon Burke, Elvis, James Brown, the Stones, Dylan, Sam Cooke and on and on.

Can you tell our readers a little about your upcoming debut album and when they’ll be able to snag ‘em up?

We’re actually right in the middle of mixing the full-length and hoping for an early 2015 release. But again, it’s kind of hard to describe the sound because it covers a lot of ground. We’re just so excited that this is becoming a reality and can’t wait to share it with everyone. 

L-R Will Stewart, Grant Prettyman, Mac Kramer, Jon Poor.

L-R Will Stewart, Grant Prettyman, Mac Kramer, Jon Poor.

What brings you southern guys even further south, way down into Atlanta?

Our bassist (Grant) is from Atlanta, so we have some roots there. I have some close friends there and we always have a hell of a time playing in Atlanta – we’re looking forward to the show next week!

Any special plans for your show at Smith’s Olde Bar this Saturday?

Nothing too crazy, just playing a ton of new tunes. We’ll also have our newly pressed 7-inch vinyl and t-shirts in tow (We accept cash and all major credit cards!)

What’s next for Willie and the Giant?

We’re going to be hitting the road as much as possible for the next two to three months, leading up to the release of the debut full-length album. Playing live is what we get off on – so that’s always going to be front and center for us as a band.

All photographs are courtesy of Will Stewart/Willie and the Giant and used with permission.

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ATLRetro’s Throwback to the 20th Century New Year’s Eve Guide – Our Top Ten Vitally Vintage Eras for Toasting 2014

Posted on: Dec 28th, 2013 By:
by Melanie Crew
Contributing Writer 

Ring in the New Year in vintage-style with Retro Atlanta!  Come celebrate what once was in 2013 and welcome with open arms what will be in 2014! Start your new year off with a bang with all the swell happenings we’ve found for you!

1. Red Hot Jazz & Dixieland. There’s nothing like gettin’ brassy, super early 20th century-style, to ring in the New Year! So, head on over to Alpharetta, grab a few cocktails and celebrate the year with New Orleans Jon at The Atlantic Seafood Company at 7pm! His Been One Hell of a Year event will have you crooning for more! Or improvise and make your way to The Village Theatre in Decatur for their hilarious Hollabration 6 event with an after party featuring the ever jazzy New Orleans brass of the Wasted Potential Brass Band at 9 pm! Cover is $35 which gets you a drink ticket plus champagne to toast 2014, a world-famous improv comedy show, an after party with the band and more!

2. Puttin’ on the Ritz.  Roar into 2014 at STK Atlanta for their Great Gatsby-themed celebration!  The party kicks off at 5 pm in the lounge with 2 seating options, if you so desire! 5:30 for the early birds where $85 gets you a 3-course meal, 9:30 for the rest, where $115 gets you a 3-course meal with a complimentary champagne toast!  And for those who want to party the night away flapper-style, an open bar option is available for $75!  So, get glitzy and ring in the New Year in vintage style with the sounds of DJ London Thomas along with 20s-era performers, party favors and many more surprises! If you’ve got rhythm, then get ritzy and make your way to the Atlanta Symphony Hall and join the biggest band of them all, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as they head to Broadway to ring in the New Year!  Get glamorous 1930s-style and roll into the New Year to the tune of George and Ira Gershwin!  The ASO along with guest conductor, Jack Everly, vocalist Judy McLane and pianist Michael Chertock, lead the way to bring you your favorite Gershwin favorites including ‘I’ve Got Rhythm,’ and ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’!  Tickets range from $31 to $69 and show begins at 8 pm!

3. Deep Roots.  Ponder 2013 by getting to the root of it all!  For a New Year’s Eve filled with grit and soul, make your way to The Earl as they dispense a foot stompin’ night of celebration with Gringo Star, Turf War and MammaBear!  Or get sultry and spend New Year’s Eve with Michelle Malone and her old-school Americana and soul at Eddie’s Attic!  The Variety Playhouse hosts those infamous sons of Atlanta, Drivin’ n’  Cryin’ as they deliver some real rock, folk and country punk with special guests Ed Roland & The Sweet Tea Project! And for a cornucopia of rooty rock styles, swing on by Red Light Café for their New Year’s Eve party with Copious Jones, The Jugtime Ragband, Mary Lynn Buchanan and The Last Gonzo at 8pm!

4. That’s Why They Call it the Blues.  For some classic blues and jazz, shimmy on down to Blind Willie’s for their New Year’s Eve Party with the powerhouse vocals of Francine Reed & The Shadows! Doors at 7pm and $50 gets you guaranteed seating, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight!  And the Atlanta tradition continues at the Northside Tavern with Mudcat’s 20th New Year’s Eve Fiesta featuring Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck, Eddie Tigner, Lola, the BluesDude and the Atlanta Horns!  $20 cover includes party favors and champagne with doors at 9pm!

5. It’s a Beach Party! Spend New Year’s Eve in paradise, Mai-Tai style at Trader Vic’s with the rockin’ surf, beach party tunes of Kool Kat Joshua Longino and Andrew & the Disapyramids!  $60 gets you a four-course dinner and admission to the party! Or, come for the show only which is $10 in advance or $15 at the door.  You won’t want to miss this island-style extravaganza!

6. Rock Across the Pond.  Kick off 2014 with Atlanta’s favorite Rolling Stones’ tribute band, The Jagged Stones with special guests The Big Chicken Beatles Band, paying homage to the Beatles, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the British Invasion at The Strand Theater!  Doors at 9pm!

7. Groovin’ Up Slowly.  Get funky and ring in the New Year with a little psychedelic soul!  Toast the New Year at the Clermont Lounge, the seedy land of debauchery as they bring you a rockin’ celebration with Halls of Jupiter, the Kris Bell Band and Ledfoot Messiah at their New Year’s Eve Bash, where $15 gets you a groovin’ good time, party favors and a midnight champagne toast!  Or come on out to Smith’s Olde Bar and rock out with Zack Deputy, joined by the father of madness and absurdity himself, Col. Bruce Hampton along with Johnny Awesome and Voodoo Visionary!  Groove on over to Philips Arena and get psychedelic with Widespread Panic and their New Year’s Eve music and food-drive, ‘feeding people through music’ event!  Rock over to Terminal West and groove into the new year with Washed Out and the Mood Rings!  And join The Georgia Soul Council at The Family Dog for a funk-filled holiday fiesta!

8. We’re Stayin’ Alive!  In Retro Atlanta that is!  Boogie on down to Mary’s  in East Atlanta for their annual Attack of the New Year’s Eve Party Monster event, featuring DJ Bendito & DJ Sam Rothstein spinning your favorite disco, indie, house and rock!  There’s no cover and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight! Celebration begins at 9 pm!

9. The Cure for Bananarama.  New-Wave is the epitome of 80’s pop culture, so celebrate 2013 while toasting 2014 by making your way to The Shelter for their 5th Annual New Wave New Year’s Eve Retro Party!  Dress New-Wave, win prizes! The festivities begin at 9pm and $10 gets you party favors, a champagne toast at midnight, a ton of super rare New-Wave music videos and a bunch more surprises! Or for some New-Wave inspired synth-pop and a New-Wave revolution, slink on over to Noni’s Bar & Deli in the Old Fourth Ward for New Year’s Eve with Sonen!  Free cover, free champagne toast at midnight!

10. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!  Get rebellious and rock into the New Year with some old school punk and plain ol’ retro-inspired rock-n-roll and metal!  Punk it up at the The Star Bar with The Biters, The Booze, The Forty-Fives’ MC45s, their all MC5 tribute, Fiend Without A Face, the Zoners and Dasher!  $10 cover.  Doors at 8pm!  Or spend New Year’s Eve in Hell hosted by the dynamic duo and circus side-show pair, Captain & Maybelle at The Masquerade featuring a gritty, rockin’ good time with The Six Shot Revival, Beitthemeans, the rockin’ all-female Elvis tribute band, the Pelvis Breastlies and Gunpowder Gray! $10 cover; Doors at 8pm.

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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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Kool Kat of the Week: Hooting, Hollyfesterin’ and Cockle-Doodle-Doom with Phil Stair of Grim Rooster

Posted on: Jan 31st, 2013 By:

Phil Stair, lead vocalist/guitarist of Grim Rooster. Photo courtesy of Phil Stair.

Every year around the anniversary of The Day the Music Died, the Right Reverend Andy Hawley gathers some of Atlanta’s best rockabilly and neo-honkytonk talent at the Star Bar for a righteous revival called Hollyfest! This year the fifth annual tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper is on Sat. Feb. 2, so mark your calendars for  a Groundhog Day you’ll want to relive with a 14-band line-up conjuring up rock n roll deja vu that includes many groups whose members have been previous Kool Kats from Cletis Reid to Andrew & The DisapyramidsThe Stumblers to Rod Hamdallah.

Also on the playlist is Grim Rooster. While the group has only been around for a couple of years, its members include Phil Stair (lead vocals, guitar), Dylan Ross (bass) and Nate Elliscu (mandolin) and Tigerbeat Tony (drums) who have been active in the scene here for many a corn season. Boasting a diverse barnyard of influences that range from Johnny Cash to Rancid, they’ve already got more than 30 original songs under their belt and the fireball audacity to promise this about their musical menu on Facebook: “just try not to drip any tobacco juice on the floor the first time you feast your ears on this blue-plate dee-light of mother-cluckin’ foot-stompin’ fun and your jaw drops wide open!”

ATLRetro caught up with Phil to find out how Grim Rooster got hatched, what Hollyfest is all about and just what the hell is honky punk anyway?

So how and when did Grim Rooster get hatched?

Grim Rooster came about in the spring of 2011. My band Rocket 350 was on its last legs, and I was fairly bummed about it. My bass player had moved to Nashville so I wasn’t getting a lot of playing time. Also our crowd had finally faded, and it  just wasn’t worth the effort of getting everyone together. At that point, my buddy Dylan asked if I had any interest in starting some sort of side project. I knew that I wanted to start either a straight punk band or do something very stripped down and roosty. Dylan wanted to play stand-up bass so it was settled. We asked one of neighbors to come play drums, and then I wrote about 20 songs for the project. I really got wrapped up in the music and was very excited to be doing something new. It had been about 15 years since I started a new band.

What’s in the name?

Grim Rooster came from a goofy brainstorming session. We wanted to use something with the word “rooster” in it, and that’s when we started coming up with ridiculous names. Obviously it’s a play on Grim Reaper, and it was meant to be funny at first, but it had a pretty good ring to it. We started coming up with crazy logos and realized we had a winner.

What the hell is honky punk?

We play honky tonk and bluegrass. We have an acoustic guitar, mandolin, upright bass and drums. The ferocity that we play our honk tonk is where the punk comes in. Although we have a real roosty sound, the punk rock still seems to slip in there. This is great when we play places like the Star Bar, but when we play to the bluegrass crowd, a lot of times they get a bit lost. We used to do a cover of Operation Ivy‘s song “Knowledge,” but it never seemed to go over too well even though we really honky-tonked it up.

What’s so great about three dead Retro rockers and was it really the day the music died? In other words, what do Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper mean to you personally?

The day the music died will always remind me of the terrible Ritchie Valens movie that they did in the 80s. “Not my Ritchie!!” But seriously I think out of the three, Buddy Holly was the biggest loss. He was a great songwriter, and he did a lot to help shape rock ‘n’ roll at its very beginning. I will have to say though, that I’m very happy Waylon Jennings did not get on that plane. I can only imagine how terrible this event was when it happened and what a blow to rock ‘n’ roll it was. It seems like we always lose the great ones, yet guys like Justin Bieber seem to stick around forever. As far as what they mean to me personally, I’m more of an Elvis man myself, but that’s a conversation for another day.

The Grim Roosters at Twain's. Photo courtesy of the Grim Roosters.

Have you played past Hollyfests? For the uninitiated, what happens at Hollyfest and makes it special? With all the Star Bar regular bands and Andy organizing, it sounds like it’s a big rockabilly/honkytonk homecoming. 

I have played many Hollyfests. One with Grim Rooster and a couple with Rocket 350. It is like a big homecoming, or more like the Atlanta rockabilly scene’s annual meeting. It’s always a great time, and its always great to see friends that I’ve hung out with for the past 20 years. It’s funny. I was sneaking into that place when I was 18, and here I am seeing the exact same folks. Something like that is rare, and I’m glad Andy and the Star bar are keeping it alive.

What will Grim Rooster be playing at Hollyfest – Holly classics or your own songs or both? Any special plans?

We are stripping down for Hollyfest because our drummer won’t be able to make it. We will be going string-band style. We are going to bluegrass up “Midnight Shift” and “True Love Ways.” Next we are going to do a slow-dance version of “Rave On.” Then, last but not least, we are going to do a Roosterized version of Weezer’s tune “Buddy Holly.”

How did you start playing guitar, and were your first rock influences the classics or were you more of a punk rock boy or a metal-head?

I started playing guitar in 7th grade but quit when I got a Nintendo for my birthday. I stupidly put it down, but hell, I was 12. I picked it back up when I was 19 because I wanted to be in a band and I realized that no one wanted just a singer. I started by trying to play along to punk rock records. It took a few years to start getting the rockabilly licks down.  When I finally did, I started Rocket 350.

I would say punk rock boy and metal head, or maybe just a lot of classic rock. I love Guns n Roses and the Ramones, what can I say?! I knew about the classics, but I didn’t start seeking out different genres till high school. I originally got into roots music through ska. That scene used to be huge in Atlanta, and there were a ton of shows. That pushed me to seek out rockabilly, and then I was hooked on that for many years. Through all of it though, I would have to say punk rock is by far my favorite music. That is probably my biggest influence. Then there’s a lot of old school country and just plain rock ‘n’ roll thrown in there.

What other bands have you played with?

Rocket 350 has been my main band; that lasted from 1997 to 2011. We went on four US tours and played hundreds of regional shows. We recorded five albums. I have yet to release our last record. Also I did fill in for my buddy’s metal band Grayson Manor once. That was fun as hell, but not exactly a good fit.

Other than Hollyfest, what’s your most memorable, fun, crazy or satisfying Grim Rooster gig? 

We enjoy playing an outdoor venue in Alpharetta called Matilda’s. Everyone calls it the poor man’s Chastain. They have roots music outside every Saturday during the summer. You play on the porch of an old house, and everyone brings their own food and beer. It’s all ages, so all of our families can make it out to the show. Those so far have been my favorite gigs, and they always draw a huge crowd. Just a really great vibe when we play there and a lot of interaction from the crowd. At the end of the day, we do this for fun so when you can get people out and involved, it makes it worth it.

The Grim Roosters shake up Matilda's. Photo Courtesy of the Grim Roosters.

Do you have a day-job?

I do, but I don’t want to ruin the illusion. Ha, yes in real life, I have a wife and two kids and live in the burbs. I work as a financial advisor, so me playing music has become a way for me to release a ton of stress. If it wasn’t for the release of playing music, I would probably be in the looney bin. I was very lucky to have been able to play music for a living and go nuts. In my late 20s, the writing was on the wall. I realized I wanted other things.

What’s next for Grim Rooster?

Just trying to find more gigs. If you know of any, let me know. We do have a big one on Feb. 6 at Smith’s Olde Bar. We are opening up for Corb Lund, and we are super excited about it. We will be playing our usual set of originals with a couple covers thrown in. Should be a great night of honky tonk.

Also, Grim Rooster is on Facebook if anyone wants to check us out. We have a three-song demo up there for everyone to listen to and download.

 

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Giving the Female Elvis Her Due: Rosie Flores and Marti Brom Throw a Tribute to Janis Martin at Smith’s Olde Bar

Posted on: Nov 15th, 2012 By:

We’re really excited about Rosie Flores’ and Marti Brom’s Tribute to Janis Martin Sun. Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. at Smith’s Olde Bar in celebration of the release of the female rockabilly legend’s long-awaited new CD, JANIS MARTIN – THE BLANCO SESSIONS. Torchy Taboo shares a sweet memory about how she discovered Janis and why you should be excited, too.

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

One beautiful spring afternoon in the early ‘90s, I went to visit my friend “Rockabilly Kim” on her horse farm in East Atlanta. Entering her home was like stepping back in time, and she always had a wonderful new find to show me or a great piece of vintage clothing she’d picked up to add to her vast collection. This afternoon the find was a clutch of 45 records which she immediately began playing for me. When she played a song called “My Boy Elvis” for me, I jumped up and chirped, “Who is this Kim?!” She quickly gave me one of her patented “don’t you know anything” glances and replied, “Janis Martin! You know, the female Elvis!” Embarrassed at my ignorance, I feigned in-the-know, “Oh yeah, right.”

“Hmm,” I thought, “a FEMALE Elvis? How’d I miss this fascinating bit of historical feminism?” Hold on, rewind. At the tender age of 9, I saw my first Elvis movie, KING CREOLE (1958) with Carolyn Jones and Walter Matthau. Of course, I was an instant fanatic. But at 9 years old, not yet sure why girls like boys, what really hooked me was Elvis’s character’s swagger – how he did as pleased and sang about it, how he waltzed into the five-and-dime, picked up a cheap guitar and got everybody’s attention. He was cool and fearless, and I wanted to be like that – to walk into the drug store on Main Street in Tucker, GA and sing my heart out!

Back to the horse farm. A few years after I’d first heard Janis Martin, I had started performing in a retro style and had an occasion to dance in a show built around celebrating Elvis’s birthday. I knew I needed a great rockabilly song but something different from the Elvis standards the rest of the show would be filled with, so I called Kim. “I’ve got the perfect thing for you!” She loaned me a mixed tape of the vintage female greats. I immediately zeroed in on Janis Martin’s song called “Drugstore Rock ‘n Roll.”

The Female Elvis singing “it’s real gone man!” about the Drugstore?! I flashed on the five-and-dime scene in KING CREOLE where he sang “Lover Doll” so sweet. But I wanted something revved-up, and the Janis Martin song had that in spades – released on the B-side of “Will You Willyum” in 1956 when Janis was a mere 15 years old. She had been billed as the female Elvis because of her onstage hip-shakin’. If that’s not fearless, I don’t know what is.

Janis’ career lost momentum in 1958 when her label, RCA dropped her because she’d gotten pregnant when her GI husband she’d eloped with was on leave. Pretty wild stuff in the ‘50s.  Like ‘50s pin-up icon Bettie Page, she lived by her own rules.

Since my introduction to her music in the ‘90s, Janis has come to be one my favorites. I was lucky enough to see Rosie Flores in the mid ‘90s as well as a rare Atlanta show with Marti Brom. I’ve added both to my list of female rockabilly greats. This pair performing a show to celebrate the new CD, JANIS MARTIN – THE BLANCO SESSIONS, that Rosie recorded with Janis Martin in 2007, should prove quite memorable.

Find out more about Janis Martin in her own words in THE JANIS MARTIN STORY, in full on Youtube here

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Kool Kat of the Week: Drinking In The Graveyard: Lauren Staley Morrow of Whiskey Gentry Talks About Playing Tunes From the Tombs

Posted on: May 17th, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

For the last couple of years Cabbagetown’s Whiskey Gentry has been blazing a trail across the Deep South, gathering a massive number of rabid fans wherever they play. Their cranked up “Pogues go to old time Nashville” style is addicting and infectious, and their live shows are memorable parties. With one excellent album under their belts, the band is currently planning a three-night stint at Smith’s Olde Bar on July 12, 13 and 14 to record a live album. But before that we get the chance to hear them a few blocks from home at the second annual Tunes From The Tombs festival this weekend. The two-day event (Sat. May 19 and Sun. May 20) is a benefit for the Oakland Cemetery and features a ton of great local, regional and national acts on several stages throughout the amazing and historic cemetery. The music starts around 11 a.m. and lasts until dusk. Tickets are $10 each day, or $15 for both days.

With the Whiskey Gentry closing out the event Sunday night at 6 p.m., ATLRetro.com decided that  lovely and talented lead singer Lauren Staley Morrow would be  a mighty swell Kool Kat Of The Week! Following a busy weekend on the road, Miss Lauren was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

ATLRetro: How did you first get involved in music, and when did you ultimately consider yourself a professional singer?

Music was always a big deal in my household as a child. None of my immediate family are musicians, but they are all avid fans. I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was 14 and started officially writing songs then. Unfortunately, I spent the next six years trying to hide the fact that I could sing from everyone. I was always so nervous that I would only play my music to a very select group of friends in my bedroom closet so my parents wouldn’t hear. I moved to England to study abroad when I was 20 years old and played my first open mic there. After that, I was hooked to performing live. I don’t do drugs or jump out of planes or anything like that, so I get my adrenaline rush from performing in front of people. Despite all that, I don’t know if I consider myself a professional singer just yet! I’ve always thought that once I was able to make a full-time living from music, then I would consider myself a professional. I’m not there just yet – but soon!

Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Gentry.

Who are some of your most important musical influences, and why do you consider them so essential?

Gosh, my musical influences are all over the place and keep evolving through the years. U2 is my favorite band of all time, and I loved Britpop when I was in high school. When I moved to England, I was so homesick for the South that I started listening to a lot of alt-country, Americana, and old country. I also started reading a lot of Southern folk literature and listening to Child Ballads (written tunes that influenced old-time and Appalachian music). That was really when I felt my Southern roots started working their way into my songwriting.

What do you think brought about the vast difference between the type of country music you play, and what is heard on commercial radio?

Currently, I think there is a great divide between those of us who want to honor a more traditional type of country music versus the amount of that which is played on commercial radio. Thankfully, I feel like people are ready to embrace country acts that aren’t so commercial but have the ability to cross over into the mainstream without losing their integrity. I was very encouraged to see acts like The Civil Wars, Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons rise to success this past year. Even the Zac Brown Band, who is very successful in commercial country markets, stay true their sound without writing about “honky-tonk badonkadonks” and “red solo cups.” I think that’s an encouraging sign for those of us who want to honor the country genre that’s inspired us without looking like a bunch of hacks trying to make a dollar on CMT.

Please tell us a bit about the members of the Whiskey Gentry, and how you found them. Why do you think this lineup “clicks” so well?

The Whiskey Gentry really began when I met my husband, Jason. We knew we both wanted to play music together, and we assembled the rest of the players in the group. Jason was in punk bands with Price Cannon (drums) and Sammy Griffin (bass), and we found Chesley Lowe (banjo) through a good friend. The five of us were the core band for a long time aside from a few hired guns along the way. Last year, we were introduced to Michael Smith who plays mandolin, and we finally met a fiddle player, Rurik Nunan. We also met Waylon Elsberry who plays harmonica and lap steel and can write one hell of a tune. Having spent the last few months on the road every weekend, I feel like we’ve finally found the band line-up we want forever – all of these guys are like my extended family. Like any family, we have our issues and disagreements. But at the end of the day, we all understand, respect and love each other immensely.

Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Gentry.

How did the Whiskey Gentry develop such a rabid and large fan base? What do you think is the most interesting aspect of your audience?

Initially, I think it helped that we all played in relatively successful local bands before forming The Whiskey Gentry, and we all had large social networks who, through word of mouth, told friends about our band. Over the years, I think we have made a name for ourselves through our live shows. I’ll meet people who will say, “I saw you guys last month and now I’ve brought 10 friends!” It’s a loyalty that has carried us from show to show and town to town. I think the most interesting aspect of our audience is how diverse it is – I don’t feel like there is any certain group that responds better to us than others. We have fun when we play, and I think people like to see that energy, regardless of background and musical tastes.

What do you see as the greatest attribute of the Atlanta music scene? What do you think is the greatest need in the local music scene?

I think one of the best things about the Atlanta music scene is that we have a lot of really great venues run by really great people who are willing to help up-and-coming acts get gigs in the city. We would have never been able to get a start in this town if it weren’t for a few concert promoters and venue booking agents who took a chance on us, and now, we have great relationships with those people and they continue to help us to this day. As for a need, I’ve been really excited to see Music Midtown making its comeback the past two years. Other cities around us have huge music festivals that not only draw in loads of revenue for their respective cities, but the festivals also help people pay attention to that town for music. Atlanta has a lot to offer musically that’s not just hip-hop or rap, and I just hope the city continues to show that.

The Whiskey Gentry put out a great debut album, so why record a live album at this point, instead of a second studio album?

I’m very proud of PLEASE MAKE WELCOME, and I think it does a great job of capturing our live sound. Having said that, however, I do feel like there is something undeniable about coming to one of our shows. It’s a party. People are screaming and dancing and singing the words, and we want to display that through a live recording. Also, as musicians, I think the live shows really showcase the musical abilities of the people in the band. We feed off of the energy from the crowds, and it just makes everyone play so well. Also, the live record will not take the place of a second album – we plan on releasing our second record next year, and the live album will be sold in coordination with that.

Do you have anything special planned for the upcoming Tunes From the Tombs show that you are willing to share with us? We know y’all love to whip out the odd cover tunes…

Ha! Who knows what we’ll come up with – we learned “Sabotage” in the van home from Virginia two days after MCA died and played it at show that evening. We love a good cover tune.

If you could book a “dream gig” who would you have on the bill with the Whiskey Gentry, and why?

This is tough. We all come from so many different musicial influences that I would want to honor all of them at our dream gig. Here’s the line-up: U2, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton and Gillian Welch all signing three-part harmony to every song, Social Distortion, Flatt & Scruggs (you said dream gig!), Gram Parsons (dreaming…again), Weird Al Yankovic, a comedy hour with Louis CK, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, Wilco, Bad Religion and OutKast.

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The Devil Lives in Jake La Botz’s Throat: The Dark Pleasures of Raising Hell as the Trickster Who Tempts and Teases the GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY

Posted on: May 10th, 2012 By:

Jake La Botz and Kylie Brown in the Alliance Theatre’s world premiere production of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. Photo by Greg Mooney.

As the highly anticipated world premiere production of the Stephen King/John Mellencamp/T-Bone Burnett GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY hits its final week at the Alliance Theatre, there’s one thing critics and audiences seem to be able to agree on. Jake La Botz lights the stage on hellfire as The Shape, a supernatural trickster, tempter and Greek Chorus to the Southern Gothic Cain and Abel tale. Arms and chest riddled with tattoos with a slicked back pompadour that conjures images of Jerry Lee “The Killer” Lewis, La Botz looks like the older man your mama warned you to stay away from but who you were certain held the keys to Elvis’s “One Night of Sin.” His untamed bump, grind and sensuosity can’t help to remind one of the scandalous early days of rock ‘n’ roll when church moms sought to ban Elvis and THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW refused to shoot the future King of Rock ‘n’ Roll from the waist down.

All of which makes it a bit of a surprise that GHOST BROTHERS is Jake’s first go at musical theatre. But he’s a veteran musician who often plays tattoo parlors and a character actor in movies ranging from independent cult features like Terry Zwigoff‘s GHOST WORLD to major Hollywood pictures such as RAMBO. His vocals and lyrics reverberate with dark poetry and raw energy. He even sings a song called “The Devil’s Lives in My Throat.” He’s been compared to Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and a “modern day Hank Williams” by Steve Buscemi who has cast him in two of his movies, ANIMAL FACTORY and LONESOME JIM.

ATLRetro recently caught up with Jake to find out more about how he approached the role of The Shape and what’s next for him after the curtain falls on this virgin run on Sunday May 13.

How did you land the role of The Shape and why did you personally want to play the part?

I got an email from Laura Stanczyk, a heavy-hitting New York casting director, a couple of years ago to come in and audition for a show called HARPS AND ANGELS that was set to Randy Newman’s music. At the time I was living in New Orleans, touring as a singer/songwriter, and occasionally acting in films… no background whatsoever in theatre. To this day I have no idea how Laura Stanczyk found me. After flying to New York to meet with Laura, Randy and director Jerry Zaks – and not getting the part – I thought ‘musical theatre… hmmm… what a fluke… but that was interesting.’ Laura must’ve kept me in her mental Rolodex because when GHOST BROTHERS came along, she sent me an email that said “Jake, I have something you are PERFECT for” She was right. I took the job because I wanted to work with an exciting group of people and explore new territory as an actor – both the role and the medium.

Jake La Botz as the malevolent character The Shape in Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. Photo by Greg Mooney.

Your performance can’t help but remind me of a time when rock n roll was down ‘n’ dirty and just emerging from blues and honkytonk, Elvis Presley was still scandalous with his hip grinds and Johnny Cash wore black. Which musical performers inspired you and why?

Thanks, I’ll take that as a compliment. That was an interesting time in music. It’s almost as if white people were able to touch back into their pre-Christian roots. The stuff Elvis was doing had been done for years by black blues and R ‘n’ B singers before him. Sex and music is primordial –  imagine a ‘pagan’ ritual, Greek god Dionysus.

I’m inspired by all the great roots-American music (blues, gospel, field hollers, hillbilly, ragtime, rock ‘n’ roll, soul, etc). My favorite singers are the ones that sound unique and otherworldly: Skip James, Hank Williams, Blind Willie Johnson, Bob Dylan, Tommy Johnson, Howling Wolf. I like to listen to music that sounds like it’s coming directly from “the source,” i.e. not manipulated too much by the entrepreneurial efforts of ego.

Seems like there could be quite a bit of Randall Flag (THE STAND) in The Shape, too—the manipulator, the trickster. Did Steve give you any background reading or direction in how to prep for the part?

No background or prep work from anyone particularly, although the entire cast was asked to watch Tennessee Williams films. The Shape I’m doing now is the same character I created for the audition, though he has filled out quite a bit since then. And I received quite a bit of good suggestions from John Mellencamp, director Susan Booth and choreographer Danny Pelzig along the way.

Your dialogue makes lots of intimations that The Shape might be The Devil. Is he?

Intimations? You mean like riding up from ‘below’ on an elevator? Wearing red? Talking about how I get bad reviews in church?

In the elevator down to the parking garage after the performance, two older blonde yuppie women told me they liked the show overall but that the language didn’t have to be so obscene, i.e. “tone it down.” Why are they wrong?

I’ve heard that a lot. I’m not sure they are wrong.

What was it like working with John Mellencamp and T-Bone Burnett? Did you collaborate with them at all on the music, or was it more just taking what they gave you and bringing the character to life?

What an honor to work with both of them. The direction I was given was to take the songs and make them my own… make them like The Shape. I’ve enjoyed doing that. I’m playing two of T-Bone’s guitars in the show… how cool is that?!?!

Have you heard anything about where GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY may be performed next and will you be reprising the part of The Shape?

There’s no telling at this point about the future of the show or the cast. I haven’t heard anything confirmed. Of course, I would love to be part of this if it goes to Broadway.

Have you had a chance to get out on the town at all while you’ve been in Atlanta? Any favorite hangout or local musician?

Haven’t had much time to explore. Cast member and country music legend Dale Watson had a Monday night residency at Smith’s Olde Bar that many of us frequented and also performed at. That was a hoot.

What’s next for you after GHOST BROTHERS? I saw something on your Website about a European tour and we’ll be seeing you onscreen in a new movie version of Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD (Directed by Walter Salles; Starring Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen) and in ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER?

From here I head to Cannes for the premiere of ON THE ROAD, followed by a European tour. Then back to NYC to look for a job! Yeah, both movies [are] coming out this year.

If you missed James Kelly’s Retro Review of GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY, you can catch up on it here. To purchase tickets for the final performances, click here.

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‘Tis the Season To Be Bono: Yacht Rock Revue Kicks Off St. Patrick’s Day Early at Park Tavern and Muses on Stepping Into the Shoes of So Many Rock Icons

Posted on: Mar 1st, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Yacht Rock Revue.

Shamrock with Yacht Rock Revue kicks off Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans early this year with the ultimate U2 tribute experience on Sat. March 3 at Park Tavern at Piedmont Park. The event, featuring one of Atlanta’s most popular classic rock cover bands, kicks off at 2 p.m. and live music starts at 4 p.m. with special guests Saturday Night Beaver presenting a glamorous stage show that celebrates the artists that brought sex appeal to popular music such as Rick James, Rod Stewart and George Michael. Then U2 tribute band Uno Dos Tres Catorce performs followed by two sets by Yacht Rock Revue. Drink and eat up with an ultimate Bloody Mary bar, green beer and plenty of hearty fare. ATLRetro caught up with two of the six members of Yacht Rock Revue, Nick Niespodziani and Peter Olson to find out more about the Gaelic goings on and what it’s like to step into the shoes of so many classic rock icons.

What do you have planned for March 3? Will it be an all-U2 show?

Our plan starts with Irish Car Bombs. Then Uno Dos Tres Catorce – starring Bueno and the Wedges. I play Bueno, everyone else is a version of the Wedge. Then it’s a long block of soft rock in our Yacht Rock Revue persona. Actually two long blocks. That’s a lot of music, especially after doing Led Zeppelin IV and Dark Side [of the Moon] last night at the 40 Watt and Sgt. Pepper’s tonight at Smith’s.

Yacht Rock Revue does so many specialty shows from Beatles tributes to Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon played in sync with WIZARD OF OZ at the Strand last fall. Fans of different bands can have high levels of scrutiny, so what do you do to prepare in general for gigs that focus on a specific band? And what will you be doing to prepare for stepping into the shoes of Bono and The Edge?

Each of the shows requires a totally different approach. It’s a lot like being an actor in the theater. Led Zeppelin is the guns-blazing action star. Yacht Rock is the like-able bad guy in an ’80s movie. How do you play Prince and MJ without coming off as a perverted prick who can’t dance as well as those guys? How do you pay tribute to the Beatles without coming off as a smarmy mop-top wanna-be? These are the questions that challenge us at our job.

U2 is the unironic one-dimensional sci-fi hero.  It’s not much of a stretch for me to play the self-righteous, self-aggrandizing social activist role of Bono…  since it’s basically who I am in real life, without the religion and millions. Their music definitely gets your adrenaline pumping. Vocally, it’s a real workout. So I’ve been increasing my throat push-up regimen in preparation.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Rock Revue.

Is there a particular U2 song you are especially looking forward to playing live?

We’ve never done “Pride” before, and we’re trying it this year.  It’s impossible to sing, so we’ll see how it goes. It seems especially appropriate to play it in the home city of MLK.

What’s your favorite tribute show you’ve done so far?

Purple Rain and Thriller was pretty epic last year – we had a 25-person choir in purple robes singing all of the backing vocals. We’re all big Prince fans, so taking on that album for the first time was a very fulfilling challenge. And then we played Thriller in Storm Trooper outfits.

What’s been your most challenging gig? 

The most challenging gigs are the ones where the music isn’t the reason people are there.  We’re spoiled, in that every time we play a show in public we get so much positive energy back from the audience.  When we get into some (not all) of these corporate event situations and we don’t get that vibe back from the crowd, it becomes a lot more difficult to do our job.

Is there a tribute show you’re really dying to do but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

Queen’s “Night at the Opera” versus Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814.”  Also, some of our guys have a project called “Dwight Snake” that re-envisions White Snake’s best tunes through the lens of Dwight Yoakam.  I can’t wait for that show.

How do stay fresh while working with classic cover material?

We always try to put some of our own stank on the tunes – it’s the only way to make it happen.  The key is not to treat the music with kid gloves, you’ve got to smack it around and roll with it in the dirt.  We treat these tunes irreverently, as if they’re our own songs.  That’s the attitude that makes the music and the show compelling.

What are your parameters in terms of what qualifies as a Yacht Rock Revue song?

Whatever we say goes.  And it can’t be written by Jimmy Buffett.

What’s the story behind how Yacht Rock Revue get started?

We were doing a variety show at the 10 High called the Surprise Party where we did a different show every week, including classic albums, comedy, our own original material, etc.  We thought a ’70s AM Gold Show would be hilarious.  It was spearheaded by our drummer Mark and our guitarist Mark.  I didn’t even know half of the songs.  And now it’s the joke that keeps on giving, as the saying doesn’t go.

St. Paddy’s Day is still coming, so do you have plans for any more U2-inspired shows?

Not this year – Park Tavern is the only one.  So catch it whilst thou can.

What else does Yacht Rock Revue have planned for this spring?

We’re recording a studio album, mixing a live album, planning more national-scale tours, launching another Summer Series at the Park Tavern, and cloning ourselves.

What question do you wish someone would ask you but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer?

Q:  Where’d you get your boots?  A:  I’ll never tell.

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Singing the Blues for One of Our Own: A Tribute to Sean Costello, Part 3 by Rod Hamdallah

Posted on: Aug 19th, 2011 By:

Sean Costello, by Rod Hamdallah.

Sean Costello‘s impact on the blues scene in Atlanta and beyond stretched across generations of musicians, and even inspired a young Rod Hamdallah to switch from punk rock to garage blues and Americana roots. On the day of the first of two Blue Waltz: A Benefit for the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Disorder concerts at Smith’s Olde Bar, Rod remembers what Sean meant to him…

Sean Costello quickly became someone I wanted to be friends with as well as play music with. I was 17 years old, sneaking into bars with a friend when we stopped into Northside Tavern. My friend introduced me to Sean; he asked if I played an instrument. I was a punk rock drummer at the time so we started talking about influential rock and roll bands. I had no intention of playing guitar until I saw Sean live. I loved the blues but didn’t know too much about it. Sean would turn me on to the greats such as Robert Johnson, Skip James and the Chicago legends.

I was always too intimidated to play around him and play on stage with him. I would sit to the side of the stage and watch him the whole night. I felt a comfort from him that I couldn’t get from other players. He knew where I was in life personally and helped me want to become someone. His friendship and lessons has taken me a long way. He will always be the reason.

Blue Waltz for The Sean Costello Memorial Fund features the following performers:

Friday, August 19: Opening set by Moontower, The Last Waltz Ensemble with special guests including Jon Liebman, Ike Stubblefield, Rev. Jeff Mosier, David Blackmon, Mudcat, Joe McGuinness, Rod Hamdallah, Nelson Nolen, Aaron Trubic (Sean Costello Band), Greg Baba (King Johnson), andGreg Hester. Purchase Friday tickets here.

Saturday August 20: Opening set by: Turtle Folk, The Last Waltz Ensemblewith special guests including Jon Liebman, Ike Stubblefield, Richie Jones (Donna Hopkins Band), Preston Holcomb (The Grapes), Daniel Hutchens (Bloodkin), Charlie Wooton (Zydefunk), Will & Lee Haraway (The Sundogs), Lee Schwartz (Outformation), Justin Brogdon, Randy Chapman, Skye Paige, Jessica Sheridan and more. Purchase Saturday tickets here.

(Click here for part 1 by Dr. Paul Linden and here for part 2 by Jon Liebman.)

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