With the Grammy Awards showcasing both Jack White and the multi-honored Black Keys, Nashville music was superbly displayed earlier this month.
Both of those artists’ nominated discs were highlighted in this column, as have been efforts by Kings of Leon, Ben Folds, Paramore, Tommy Womack, The Features and many more. But this recent burst of publicity means that it is way past time to shine a spotlight again on our non-country music makers. So today’s column includes electric blues, folk-pop, heavy metal, classic r&b, political pop/rock and other styles.
For the Disc of the Day, I’m going with old-school r&b. That would be the Andy T-Nick Nixon Band. Their just-released collection is a total charmer. Give a DISCovery Award to Angel Snow. Yes, that’s her real name. And, yes, she is a mesmerizing stylist.
JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD/Sixpack
Writers: JEFF The Brotherhood; Producer: Dan Auerbach & JEFF The Brotherhood; Publisher: Automatic Bzooty/Otissery/WB; ASCAP
These enduring Nashville Infinity Cat indie faves have made the step up to the major leagues with their Warner Bros. contract. The resulting Hypnotic Nights album retains the fizzy, dense, loopy style of their prior work with perhaps a touch more pop catchiness, especially on this single. Collaborator Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys was named non-classical Producer of the Year at the Grammys. So there. Buy the collection on vinyl and you get a full CD version included with it, plus an autographed photo of the Orrall brothers, Jake and Jamin.
Writers: Angel Snow; Producer: Viktor Krauss; Publisher: Emmett Till, ASCAP
Producer Krauss is notable as a record maker, himself, as well as being a longtime Lyle Lovett sideman. It’s easy to hear why he chose to work with newcomer Snow. She sings in a lustrous, compelling alto, weaving easily through the complexities of the dreamy melody. Acoustic pop washed with an echoey, electronic soundscape. In a word, haunting.
Writers: Anthony Armstrong/Michael Barnes/Randy Armstrong/Joe Rickard/Jasen Rauch/Jason McArthur; Producer: Howard Benson; Publisher: Logansong/Morning Harbor/Eden’s Lullaby/Sony-ATV Cross Keys/Schminigan, BMI/ASCAP
Some of the hardest rock in Nashville is made by our CCM brethren, most particularly this four piece, goth-sounding outfit. The lead single from Red’s new Release the Panic CD is soaked in guitar thunder, shouted vocals and frothing drumming.
Writers: Kyle Frederick; Producer: Dyle Frederick/Marc Owens; Publisher: Vandermont/Cry Angels/Melody Chef, BMI
This is the title tune of what I am told is Boomtemple’s second album. It is a percussive rocker with loads of quirky sonic effects and a somewhat psychedelic vibe. For even more psychedelia, check out “The Girl at the Pork Store.” And for more outright rock, spin “Yes I Will.” Talent on parade.
CHARLIE PEACOCK/Ghost of the Kitty Cat
Writers: Charlie Peacock; Producer: Charlie Peacock; Publisher: none listed
Peacock has been contributing songs and pop production expertise in the CCM world for decades. His current CD, No Man’s Land, contains 12 songs inspired by his Louisiana ancestors. It’s an all-star affair, with a cast including Bryan Sutton, Ruby Amanfu, Bruce Bouton, Jeff Coffin, Andy Leftwich, Jerry McPherson and more. It also rocks smartly, particularly on this bubbling, bopping, Cajun-flavored jewel of a tune. It goes without saying that the production work is beyond brilliant. Highly recommended.
ANDY T-NICK NIXON BAND/Drink Drank Drunk
Writers: Thomas Hambridge/Gary Nicholson; Producer: Anson Funderburgh; Publisher: Tom Hambridge/Gary Nicholson/Sony-ATV, ASCAP
James “Nick” Nixon is a Nashville r&b institution who gigged up and down Jefferson Street back in the day. His sidemen have included Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox, and he charted in the 1970s in the group Past, Present and Future. He toured with the New Imperials, produced The Fairfield Four and performed in the 2011 film Redemption Road. Guitar hotshot Andy T (Talamantez) came of age in Southern California, but is now Nashville based. Nixon’s deep-blues vocal delivery and Andy’s stinging guitar chops are fabulous together throughout their CD, including on this title tune. They will rock your world.
SHANNON LABRIE/I Remember A Boy
Writers: Shannon Labrie; Producer: Zodlounge; Publisher: none listed
This Music City resident was named one of the “Best Unsigned Artists of 2012” by Music Connection. Her debut album, Just Be Honest, was issued two weeks ago. She sings with aching authenticity, accompanying herself on guitar and/or piano. The sound harks back to the classic singer-songwriter era, yet is thoroughly contemporary with touches of jazz and soul in spots, along with plenty of thump. Labrie will be showcased alongside such talents as Brooke Waggoner, Matthew Perryman Jones, Katie Herzig and Mindy Smith via the iTunes “Nashville Indie Spotlight.”
WILL HOGE/The Ballad of Trayvon Martin
Writers: Will Hoge; Producer: Will Hoge; Publisher: Will Hoge, BMI
Veteran Nashville pop-rocker Hoge has lately been collecting award nominations for co-writing the country hit “Even If it Breaks Your Heart.” But his current Modern American Protest Music collection demonstrates he still has his grit, passion and fire for compelling alt rock. He howls and grinds this timely, torrid cautionary tale like a man possessed.
Writers: Phoebe Cryar; Producer: Anderson East, Daniel Scobey & The Vespers; Publisher: Poodle Head, SESAC
The Vespers comprises two Cryar sisters and two Jones brothers, the latter of whom are that musical rarity, Nashville natives. The sound is folk-pop with an acoustic base overlaid with a variety of punchy rhythm instruments, claps and stomps, plus fey, gentle vocals. Enchanting. And in these Lumineer and Mumford times, quite contemporary and in step. The band’s current album is titled The Fourth Wall. Miss this gem at your peril.
MARK ROBINSON/Drive Real Fast
Writers: Mark Robinson; Producer: Mark Robinson; Publisher: Dogs in Trouble, SESAC
This blues-rock Nashvillian has titled his CD Have Axe — Will Groove, which is appropriate since he’s a guitar hoss. The sweat-soaked roadhouse set kicks off with this blistering number. It might be light on subtlety in the lyrics department, but in any case, he speaks most eloquently with his fingers on the frets. The album is entirely self penned except for three tunes, including a cover of the Ray Charles standard “Lonely Avenue.”
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow)