Dave Cobb hosted a listening party on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 19) at RCA Studio B for his forthcoming concept record, Southern Family.
The bourgeoning producer will release the project—which features Zac Brown, Chris Stapleton, Brandy Clark, Brent Cobb, Anderson East, Jason Isbell, Shooter Jennings, Jamey Johnson, John Paul White, Holly Williams, and more—on March 18 via Elektra Records’ partnership with his Low Country Sound (LCS) imprint.
“What I’m trying to do in this album is make everyone in this town work together,” said Cobb at the preview. Lee Ann Womack is featured on background vocals with Brown, Kristen Rogers is featured on background with Brent Cobb, and J.T. Cure, who became Stapleton’s bass player at 19 years old, is also featured on the project.
“These are all songs written about mothers, unborn children, grandparents, etc.,” said Cobb, who is a native of Savannah, Georgia. “I wanted to particularly focus on the South, because that’s where I grew up.”
Cobb revealed his cousin and Carnival songwriter, Brent Cobb, is now signed to LCS as an artist. On the compilation Brent Cobb wrote and performed “Down Home.”
“That’s some redneck shit,” Dave candidly joked to Brent, who in turn described his chronicle of a Sunday crawfish boil with his Georgia family.
LCS newcomer Anderson East delivered a soulful standout performance with “Learning,” written with LCS Publishing’s Aaron Raitiere. Cobb introduced East as Mr. Miranda Lambert (as the two are reportedly dating), the gritty singer’s presentation—not unlike Jonny Lang—presented horns and a B3 organ.
“This project started a year and a half ago when Andrew Brightman [Cobb’s manager] suggested making a concept record,” said Cobb, who has long been inspired by English musician-producer and now Nashville local Paul Kennerley. “White Mansions is my palate for everything. Paul wrote the forward to Southern Family—it’s amazing to have the guy you ripped off help you with an album.”
Miranda Lambert’s inclusion on the album came after she approached Cobb, saying: “I heard about your stupid album.” She wrote “Sweet By And By” with Brent Cobb, a song about not forgetting your roots.
Morgane Stapleton, the wife of country breakout Chris Stapleton, was featured on “You Are My Sunshine” with her husband singing in the background. “At first I said, ‘Come on,’” recalls Cobb in hearing the duo’s desire to cut the classic title. Presented in a totally new fashion, as the Stapletons have performed it many times live, Cobb said he was sold when Chris showed the song’s title engraved inside his wedding ring.
“I wouldn’t feel right if Jamey Johnson wasn’t included,” said Cobb, who worked on the Johnson’s albums, That Lonesome Song and The Guitar Song. Johnson is featured on “Mama’s Table,” another standout, poignant song written about family heirlooms and memories inside each scratch.
Three-fourths of the album was made next door from the listening party in Grand Victor Sound, better known as RCA Studio A, where Cobb is scheduled to take over after 14-year occupant Ben Folds departs later this year. “This is one of the most inspiring places,” said Cobb of the RCA room(s). “This is the rock that built us, and Aubrey Preston, who helped save Studio A is here tonight.”
Although Brandy Clark is a Washington native, Cobb felt it necessary to include the premier vocalist. “Wherever you’re from, you can make this a better town,” said Cobb. Clark’s title, “I Cried,” showcased chalky strings and resonant piano alongside compassionate lyrics for suffering loved ones.
“It felt like watching a movie,” said Cobb of Clark’s performance unfold in the studio. “I wanted this whole album to have a cinematic quality.”
Zac Brown’s title, “Grandma’s Garden,” was recorded at the singer’s studio. Womack’s vocals dance around the metaphoric lyrics of weeding out whatever could go wrong from a garden, as in life.
“There are more songs on the record,” Cobb concluded at the preview. “But it wouldn’t be right not to have a gospel choir.” The Settles Connection choir was featured for “That’s Alright” as part of Rich Robinson’s “The Way Home.” Kennerley sought the gospel sample for Cobb, who remade the instrumental introduction with cars whizzing outside the studio on a rainy day. The album ends with the lyric, “Since my soul’s got a seat up in that kingdom, that’s alright.”
The project is available for pre-order with White and Lambert’s tracks available for immediate download.
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