Displaying items by tag: rock

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Fair-Weather Kings – Weathering Bowling Green’s Rolling Musical Seas

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/22/13)—Hearing it from the proverbial “horse’s mouth” makes it official: “energetic” ranks highest among the descriptors fans use to define the sound and feel of Bowling Green, KY’s beloved five-piece band, the Fair-Weather Kings. And it’s a fact that is duly justifiable. Comparison-wise, many say the quintet’s unique style is akin to the vibrant, nationally-acclaimed indie sounds of The Strokes and The Arctic Monkeys.

Yet, once you start trying to dial in their insightful works any further—to do their sound justice through words, so to speak—the process of classification becomes much deeper and, perhaps, more metaphysical. That being said, here’s my personal take: the Fair-Weather Kings strike hard on the head of modernity’s pop-rock stake, while remaining punctual, compositionally edgy, fun, and experimental in a not-too-abstract way. Their lyrical originality, atmospheric grooves, and consistently frantic, multi-layered live performances—which come courtesy of vocalist/guitarist Wesley Stone, guitarist Zach Barton, bassist Jason Williams, keyboard/synth player Craig Brown, and drummer Marcus Long— mix together well, producing a seemingly perfect storm amidst an electric and inspirational musical climate.

While the Fair-Weather Kings have yet to gain a large-scale, national following, they have received a wealth of veneration from all corners of our region and beyond. In fact, the respect the Fair-Weather Kings have deservedly garnered from their peers since forming just under two years ago is evidenced by the fact that they have remained afloat, relevant, and well-loved in the virtual sea of talent found in Bowling Green.

So how do the Fair-Weather Kings maintain their prowess in such a saturated musical market? What’s their origin story and creative process? And what is their ultimate goal with music? To find out the answers to these questions and much more, I recently got the chance to speak with FWK frontman and guitarist, Wesley Stone, who informed me that weathering west Kentucky’s blooming and inspirational entertainment scene isn’t always an easy task to master.

Who are the members of the Fair-Weather Kings, where is each member from, what are your ages, and what instrument(s) do each of you play?

I’m Wesley Stone and I’m on lead vocals and guitar. Zach Barton plays guitar, Jason Williams is our bassist, Craig Brown plays keys/synth, and Marcus Long is our drummer. Zach, Marcus and I grew up in Hopkins County, KY. Craig and Jason grew up in Bowling Green. We all currently live in Bowling Green. We are all in our late 20’s, with the exception of Marcus, who is in his early 30’s.

How and when did the band first form?

We first formed in October of 2011 with Zach and I just sort of jamming around on occasion and presenting songs to each other. After a bit, we tracked down a drummer and bass player to sort of feel out the whole band thing. After a couple months, we had worked out a few songs, but our drummer and bass player at the time weren’t really a good fit with the type of music we were writing, so that’s when Marcus joined, along with another friend of ours, Will Kronenberger, who played bass. Shortly after they joined, we picked up Rory Willis to play keys, who was Will’s roommate at the time and the owner and operator of Greyskull Recordings. We all wrote and worked on the songs that would end up on our debut, self-titled EP and played our first show in January of 2012.

Where did the name of the band originate and how does it fit with the music or “feel” of the band?

The name sort of became a formality at a certain point. We knew we had to call ourselves something, so we just started throwing out a bunch of ideas over the course of a week or so. Ultimately, “The Fair-Weather Kings” came about when we combined two of our favorite names that we had come up with. I can’t really remember what those were, though. Fair-Weather….something and something…Kings. There isn’t really any intended significance as far as the name representing our music or style. I’m sure I could dig up some philosophical meaning to it, but, really, it was just the first name that we all agreed upon that remotely sounded cool.

What influences do you all draw inspiration from both musically and in life?

We have a wide variety of musical influences—too many to even begin listing them—but we all draw from some variety of rock or pop music, and we all have our own favorite singer-songwriters. We also get inspiration from the many great bands we hang out with and play with around Bowling Green. Mainly, our songs are inspired by love, life, and the universe, and revolve around observations within each.

How has the band changed over time?

The biggest change that has occurred for us has been losing and gaining members. Will and Rory got busy with their jobs and other projects, and that is when Jason and Craig stepped in. They both came in with completely different styles than Will and Rory, which ultimately changed our sound. But it was for the better. Each previously written song has since evolved into something that is, in many ways, completely different from what you hear in our recordings, which were all done with Will and Rory. Again, this evolution has been for the better. The songs have gotten tighter and even experimental at times, which make them fun and different every time we play them live. You will very rarely hear the exact same version of a song from show to show.

How do you all define the sound of the Fair-Weather Kings?

That’s always a hard question to answer, and I usually just refer to what others have compared it to or said. The most common word used to describe our music is “energetic,” and we have been compared to The Strokes and The Artic Monkeys.

Like you just said, a good deal of the Fair-Weather Kings’ music is highly energetic and, at times, feverishly frantic, which comes across well during your live shows. By the same token, you all seem to be very tightly-knit as a multi-piece band. That being said, how do you approach the creative process? Do songs come together spontaneously or is it more of an intensive, day-by-day process?

The majority of our songs were songs that I had already written or were nearly complete ideas that I then presented to the entire band. From there, everyone just sort of filled in the gaps with each of us giving the others input and experimenting with various ways to approach them. However, we have also written several songs that blossomed out of a jam session during practice.

While the band’s sound is ultimately rooted in rock, you all also incorporate a variety of electronic, synthesized sounds in your music through guitar effects and keys/synthesized sounds. Do you think it’s important to remain open to different sonic avenues in the modern age for the sake of creativity?

We keep ourselves open to various sounds and even various styles for the sake of creativity. I think if we confined ourselves to a specific sound, or tried to write songs that adhere to a specific style or sound, it would hinder us creatively. We are constantly picking up things from other bands and each other, which steers each new song or idea in a slightly different direction.

You guys hail from one of the region’s most vibrant music scenes—Bowling Green, KY. How much of an effect has that environment had on the band’s approach and creative evolution?

It has its positives and negatives. On one hand, all the bands are learning, supporting, and challenging each other to become better. On the other hand, it’s a constant struggle to keep from getting lost in the mix of all these great bands and musicians in the area. Either way, we are proud to call Bowling Green home and love being associated with its rising music scene.

You all played at the inaugural Mad Flavor Arts & Music Festival in Madisonville this past June. Why did you all decide to play the festival and what was your overall take on the event?

It sounded like a fun time. Again, Zach, Marcus, and I grew up in the area and still have friends and family there, so it seemed like a great opportunity to not only play our music to some different faces, but to also visit with some familiar ones. We had a great time and got some great feedback on our set.

If I’m not mistaken, your self-titled EP and single, “Satellite Galaxies”, were both recorded at Greyskull Recordings in Bowling Green. Tell me a little bit about what it’s like recording there.

During those recording sessions, Rory Willis was still our keyboard player. We recorded all the tracks on the EP in a “live” fashion where everyone was being recorded at the same time, minus the vocals, so, really, it was just like a more structured and professional practice—except we played every song a dozen times. We did “tracking” for Satellite Galaxies, meaning we each recorded our parts individually. That process is slightly boring, but produces a much higher quality end product. It also allows for changes, and gave Rory the ability to piece together the best parts of each take.

Are you guys working on any new music at the moment?

Yes. We have two new songs that we have been playing live for a while that haven’t been recorded, and we are currently working through some ideas for at least three more. We are taking our time with the new material—screening it so to speak. The first album was composed of literally every song that was presented. This time around, we are being a bit pickier and are presenting lots of ideas that will be narrowed down to a few songs at a time.

From your perspective, why is it important for area citizens to get out and support local musicians and artists?

Because most of those local musicians and artists want to be national musicians and artists, and the road to that outcome is paved by every single person’s support.

Over the years, what’s been one of the band’s favorite shows and/or biggest accomplishments?

One of our best shows was a house-show at a place dubbed The Manor. It is right next to Greyskull—which is where we rehearsed at the time—in the basement of this old Civil War hospital that is now a private residence. There were a ton of people all giving us as much energy as we were giving them. Those are the best types of crowds. I’ll take a crowd of 20 people that are all getting into the music over 2,000 motionless bodies any day, and that’s when we put on the best show, too. It’s a give and take relationship when it comes to our performances, and we were getting and giving quite a bit at The Manor that night.

What is the end goal for the Fair-Weather Kings?

Ultimately, we want to reach as many people as possible with our music. So, short answer: major label support.

Where and how can people check you out and purchase your music?

We have a ReverbNation profile, as well as a Bandcamp profile. We don’t really charge for digital downloads, and both places have all of our recorded material for free. We have physical copies of our debut EP, which we have re-released with “Satellite Galaxies” for sale on our Bandcamp page. We have stickers and t-shirts for sale there as well. Of course, you can pick up any of those things at our shows, too.

In closing, feel free to give any shout-outs you want.

All of our fellow BG Sceners…
Canago, Buffalo Rodeo, Morning Teleportation, Schools, Chris Rutledge, Sleeper/Agent, Cage the Elephant, Opossum Holler, The Reneaus, The Beech Benders, Plastic Visions, The Black Shades, Lost River Cavemen, Fat Box, The Hungry Ears, Technology vs Horse, and others…

Also…
D93 WDNS, Revolution 91.7 WWHR, Spencer’s Coffee House, and Greyskull Recordings.


____________________________________________________________________

Want to hear the Fair-Weather Kings right now? Check out the ReverbNation player attached below this article. Want to support the band by downloading some Fair-Weather Kings tracks or purchasing some merchandise? Visit the official FWK BandCamp page by clicking here.

For more information on the Fair-Weather Kings, such as upcoming shows and updated news, visit their official Facebook page by clicking here.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jessi Smith

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  • Published in Music

Word on the Street: Basking in Waves of Progress

MADISONVILLE, KY (7/19/13)—Full-spectrum progress is rarely a measurable, down-to-the-speck concept. Oftentimes, authentic progress is evidenced by an anomalous, subjective feeling imparted upon an individual or a collective group through a set of direct or indirect experiences. And it’s the aforementioned sense of subjectivity that’s key, because, like beauty, the notions of development and growth are ultimately in the eye of the beholder. To put it bluntly, it’s up to the observers—the people of Hopkins County and west Kentucky in this case—to recognize and appreciate the encouraging changes around us rather than focusing on the negatives that can tarnish our perceptions.

So, why examine this concept here? And how does this perspective on progress connect with our community?

While I could recount a variety of past experiences that would answer these questions adequately, I’d rather point to something specific that took place a week ago.

It was the night of Friday, July 12th, and myself, as well as a couple of close friends, suddenly found ourselves completely immersed in this peculiar sense of progress as we stood on my back porch in Madisonville, listening to the sounds of positive change emanating from the downtown district.

Yet, it had taken a full day—or perhaps even years in retrospect—ripe with tedious, but rewarding, business-related efforts and enjoyable interaction with people in our community before we were once again led to what has become a fairly familiar realization as of late: our area is growing in the right direction.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Much like any other day, Jessica Dockrey and I completed our summer morning routine, which includes getting my daughter ready for the day, taking her to stay with a member of my family so we can focus on business, eating breakfast upon our return, taking showers, putting some fresh clothes on, and pounding away at a variety of Sugg Street Post-related tasks until the late afternoon. The difference with this particular day, however, was that we would be participating in the City of Madisonville’s second installment of the 2013 Friday Night Live summer concert and entertainment series.

As with the first FNL we attended back in June, we were excited to check out the event’s entertainment lineup and to talk with attendants about the Sugg Street Post. We were also eager to see our friends out at the event having a good time with their families.

So, as the mid-morning quickly turned to late-afternoon, we packed up our table, a banner, some blank note cards for an advertising giveaway, business cards, and a few fold-out chairs, and headed toward the city’s downtown district to set up our booth.

As before, we were lucky enough to have a spot on the corner of Court and Union Streets where we could see the performance stage while also meeting with a variety of FNL patrons.

Though attendance for the event underwent gradual growth throughout the evening, the turnout for the summer concert series, which was made possible via a partnership with Baptist Health Madisonville and the Hopkins County Tourist and Convention Commission, was perhaps the best I’ve seen in four years by the time 7:30pm rolled around.

Along with booths from a variety of businesses and organizations, a motorcycle show hosted by the Hopkins County Central Archery Team on East Center Street, and onsite food and refreshment services—which included the Madisonville-Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce’s beer garden—the event also boasted a three-part musical lineup that included Larry Grisham and The Beat Daddys, Elvis impersonator Brad McCrady, and the acclaimed Boscoe France Band.

Furthermore, we (Jessica, close friend and photographer Jeff Harp, and I) got to meet and talk with a lot of fresh faces that were excited about the Sugg Street Post and the support we try to offer up to the local arts and entertainment scene in western Kentucky. For our fans and supporters, we are truly grateful.

Yet, by the time 8:15pm rolled around, we were physically and mentally exhausted. It was the culmination of a work week that seemed to stretch much farther than five days and we were ready for some down time at home. While we didn’t want to miss what was surely going to be one of the biggest and most anticipated shows of the season—a live performance by Guitar Center’s national 2012 Battle of the Blues winner and Hopkins County native, Boscoe France—we succumbed to our human frailties and packed it up, ready to relax in the comforts of our own home.

With most everything unloaded, we took off our shoes, popped open a couple of brews, and headed out toward the back porch of our home on the south end of town to take in the relaxing sights of the night sky. And as we walked past the threshold some six to seven blocks away from downtown Madisonville and FNL, we were greeted by the soulful howls and bluesy wailing of The Boscoe France Band cutting a smooth grove into the evening air.

We weren’t going to miss the show after all.

I was born here, and I’ve lived in or nearby Madisonville for the majority of my life, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been able to hear music from an event this clearly. Not only could I hear the performance, but it was truly phenomenal music. We all looked at each other and seemed to exclaim the same sentiments in unison, “This is awesome!”

And it truly was awe-inspiring in that moment. To us, it was a sign of where our small town is headed.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half set, we all felt as though we were witness to something special. It was pure. It was evolution. It was a triumph for our local scene wrapped up in a seemingly simple package of sound waves, nice weather, and cool night air. It was about friendship and a shared vision. Sure, there may have been a handful of local folks trying to get some sleep that night, but, on the whole, our town was truly alive. It was electric, loud, and stunning.

We were at home, relaxing in a chair with our feet kicked up, and we could hear the sounds of progress, the rumble of bikes roaring down the streets, the clickety-clack and groan of a train passing through the darkness, reminding us of what a great place we have to call home.

____________________________________________

Want to learn more about Madisonville’s 2013 Friday Night Live summer concert series? If so, click the following link: 

http://www.madisonvillegov.com/Madisonville_Kentucky/index.asp?Page=Friday%20Night%20Live

To learn more about Boscoe France and The Boscie France Band, click here or click the YouTube player attached below this article.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photo provided by Boscoe France

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Word on the Street: Basking in Waves of Progress

MADISONVILLE, KY (7/19/13)—Full-spectrum progress is rarely a measurable, down-to-the-speck concept. Oftentimes, authentic progress is evidenced by an anomalous, subjective feeling imparted upon an individual or a collective group through a set of direct or indirect experiences. And it’s the aforementioned sense of subjectivity that’s key, because, like beauty, the notions of development and growth are ultimately in the eye of the beholder. To put it bluntly, it’s up to the observers—the people of Hopkins County and west Kentucky in this case—to recognize and appreciate the encouraging changes around us rather than focusing on the negatives that can tarnish our perceptions.

So, why examine this concept here? And how does this perspective on progress connect with our community?

While I could recount a variety of past experiences that would answer these questions adequately, I’d rather point to something specific that took place a week ago.

It was the night of Friday, July 12th, and myself, as well as a couple of close friends, suddenly found ourselves completely immersed in this peculiar sense of progress as we stood on my back porch in Madisonville, listening to the sounds of positive change emanating from the downtown district.

Yet, it had taken a full day—or perhaps even years in retrospect—ripe with tedious, but rewarding, business-related efforts and enjoyable interaction with people in our community before we were once again led to what has become a fairly familiar realization as of late: our area is growing in the right direction.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Much like any other day, Jessica Dockrey and I completed our summer morning routine, which includes getting my daughter ready for the day, taking her to stay with a member of my family so we can focus on business, eating breakfast upon our return, taking showers, putting some fresh clothes on, and pounding away at a variety of Sugg Street Post-related tasks until the late afternoon. The difference with this particular day, however, was that we would be participating in the City of Madisonville’s second installment of the 2013 Friday Night Live summer concert and entertainment series.

As with the first FNL we attended back in June, we were excited to check out the event’s entertainment lineup and to talk with attendants about the Sugg Street Post. We were also eager to see our friends out at the event having a good time with their families.

So, as the mid-morning quickly turned to late-afternoon, we packed up our table, a banner, some blank note cards for an advertising giveaway, business cards, and a few fold-out chairs, and headed toward the city’s downtown district to set up our booth.

As before, we were lucky enough to have a spot on the corner of Court and Union Streets where we could see the performance stage while also meeting with a variety of FNL patrons.

Though attendance for the event underwent gradual growth throughout the evening, the turnout for the summer concert series, which was made possible via a partnership with Baptist Health Madisonville and the Hopkins County Tourist and Convention Commission, was perhaps the best I’ve seen in four years by the time 7:30pm rolled around.

Along with booths from a variety of businesses and organizations, a motorcycle show hosted by the Hopkins County Central Archery Team on East Center Street, and onsite food and refreshment services—which included the Madisonville-Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce’s beer garden—the event also boasted a three-part musical lineup that included Larry Grisham and The Beat Daddys, Elvis impersonator Brad McCrady, and the acclaimed Boscoe France Band.

Furthermore, we (Jessica, close friend and photographer Jeff Harp, and I) got to meet and talk with a lot of fresh faces that were excited about the Sugg Street Post and the support we try to offer up to the local arts and entertainment scene in western Kentucky. For our fans and supporters, we are truly grateful.

Yet, by the time 8:15pm rolled around, we were physically and mentally exhausted. It was the culmination of a work week that seemed to stretch much farther than five days and we were ready for some down time at home. While we didn’t want to miss what was surely going to be one of the biggest and most anticipated shows of the season—a live performance by Guitar Center’s national 2012 Battle of the Blues winner and Hopkins County native, Boscoe France—we succumbed to our human frailties and packed it up, ready to relax in the comforts of our own home.

With most everything unloaded, we took off our shoes, popped open a couple of brews, and headed out toward the back porch of our home on the south end of town to take in the relaxing sights of the night sky. And as we walked past the threshold some six to seven blocks away from downtown Madisonville and FNL, we were greeted by the soulful howls and bluesy wailing of The Boscoe France Band cutting a smooth grove into the evening air.

We weren’t going to miss the show after all.

I was born here, and I’ve lived in or nearby Madisonville for the majority of my life, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been able to hear music from an event this clearly. Not only could I hear the performance, but it was truly phenomenal music. We all looked at each other and seemed to exclaim the same sentiments in unison, “This is awesome!”

And it truly was awe-inspiring in that moment. To us, it was a sign of where our small town is headed.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half set, we all felt as though we were witness to something special. It was pure. It was evolution. It was a triumph for our local scene wrapped up in a seemingly simple package of sound waves, nice weather, and cool night air. It was about friendship and a shared vision. Sure, there may have been a handful of local folks trying to get some sleep that night, but, on the whole, our town was truly alive. It was electric, loud, and stunning.

We were at home, relaxing in a chair with our feet kicked up, and we could hear the sounds of progress, the rumble of bikes roaring down the streets, the clickety-clack and groan of a train passing through the darkness, reminding us of what a great place we have to call home.

____________________________________________

Want to learn more about Madisonville’s 2013 Friday Night Live summer concert series? If so, click the following link:

http://www.madisonvillegov.com/Madisonville_Kentucky/index.asp?Page=Friday%20Night%20Live

To learn more about Boscoe France and The Boscie France Band, click here or click the YouTube player attached below this article.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photo provided by Boscoe France

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  • Published in Music

Creating Community with Electric Synergy

MADISONVILLE, KY (4/18/13)—Technically, we experience synergy to some degree every day. Yet, every so often, we dig right into the exceptional reality of the term. And it is in these rare instances, when just the right mix of timing, emotion, and situation intermingle, that we truly experience what it means to collectively create something amazing, something that reaches into a shared consciousness both within and beyond our sense of individuality. It’s an electric sensation that reminds us that we’re human, that we were once a civilization rather than a menagerie of disjointed beings basking in the pale blue glow of smartphone screens. It creates an undeniably powerful buzz within us and those in proximity, and it is usually so striking that what was perhaps only a brief moment in time—at least in relativity—may impress upon us a lifelong stamp of consideration for our potential as a single race.

It may at first sound like the ranting of a lunatic, but coin these remembered, hindsight moments as “nostalgia” or “the good ol’ days” and it all begins to make perfect sense.

In the opinion of this writer, modernity and all its intricate, fast-paced trappings are paradoxically stifling and furthering the frequency with which these collectively cathartic moments manifest. Social media and other forms of publicly accessible mass communication are powerful tools for distributing ideas and creativity, but they can also keep us at odds; they can keep us faceless and disconnected, prostrate in mindless entertainment, while ironically connecting us in ways we would have never imagined 20 years ago. Whereas mail once took weeks, or even months, to reach its recipient, we can now send messages to the other side of the globe instantaneously. At the click of a button, we may purchase the latest pair of designer jeans or we can spark a revolution, and therein lays the terror of the modern generation’s responsibility. It’s up to us whether we use what we have at our disposal for the progression of communal thought or for the bliss of ignorance.

Fortunately, there are many who understand this concept and are actively utilizing the technology-bound power we all wield for the betterment of our species. They are creating real events where people can not only interact, but can share and synergize with other like-minded people, and they’re using technology to spread the word.

Yet, no matter how much a person or group may plan an event, the role of those participating—and how much they actually participate—as well the circumstances that are ultimately involved, are always the uncontrollable variables in this equation. They are the anomalous factors no individual or organization can completely gauge beforehand. With this in mind, those who take the time and initiative in hopes of achieving such a collaborative communal effect deserve our applause more so. Why? Because much of their fuel is a mix of blind faith and ambition.

Fortunately, as a writer and general community supporter, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing and being a part of these electrically-charged moments several times over the past few years—and they’ve almost always been sparked by the talents of creative people.

Thankfully, I was able to be a part of this effect once again this past Saturday, April 13th, in Madisonville, KY at Legends Bar thanks to the efforts of local rock band, gypsyLifter, and a handful of other local performers.

With the promise of 100 free beers, a striking lineup of “guest” performers, and the mission of simply having a good time standing as the impetus for participating, over 250 people turned out at the venue throughout the four-and-a-half-hour set with high hopes—and they weren’t disappointed.

As the night rolled on, talented performers like Pat Ballard and Johnny Keyz (aka PB&J), Mollie Garrigan, Vince Bedwell, Chris Branstetter, Cody Melton, and Even Faulk, as well as some new groups formed partially by members of gypsyLifter—Toredown/Brown (Landon Miller, Kyle True, and Matt Parker) and The Dead Sea Squirrels (myself, Jessica Dockrey, Landon Miller, and Randy Stone)—took to the stage alongside one another as friends and collaborators rather than rivals.

And while I’ve been to similar events in the past—ones where everyone hopes to work together effectively—Robert Burns’ quote says it best: “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.” To put it bluntly, sometimes things just click organically and sometimes they don’t, a fact that is especially true with artists and musicians. It’s just the way of fate. Fortunately, this event was that of the former, and the people in attendance became just as much a part of the performances as those under the swirling, iridescent lights of the stage. Friends were there showing support with claps and yelps; strangers applauded from behind raised, ice-clinking glasses; revelers swayed and nodded in time adjacent to the onstage monitors; and a horde of respect was shared by all those involved.

Though I can’t personally speak for everyone there that night, the event will personally go down in my memory banks as one of the best times I’ve ever had creating something beautiful with the help of other, like-minded people.

Pat Ballard, a seasoned musician and supporter of local artists and performers—a man who partially inspired me to get on stage for the first time this past Saturday night—leaned over during the first portion of gypsyLifter’s multi-part set and told me, “When I walked in the door tonight, I felt like I was walking into a community that I truly belonged to.”

And that’s what it’s all about.

Though there were a bevy of talented musicians from our town and region who weren’t able to attend the show, there’s no doubt in my mind that what we shared was just as much a part of their spirit as our own.

As residents of Madisonville and Hopkins County, we should never take what we have right here in our community for granted. It’s not just musicians either. It’s an eclectic group of artists; it’s a variety of non-profit organizations; it’s volunteers; it’s rich history; and it’s unique culture. It’s here at our fingertips, but it’s up to us to energize the beast and bring it to life.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jessi Smith

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  • Published in Music

Chasing the White Buffalo with 'Home Videos'

BOWLING GREEN, KY (2/24/13)—Intense, yet spacious vocals, snappy and often times energetically raw guitar work, a striking wall of synthesized sounds, thick bass lines, and a varied mix of splashing cymbal and sharp drum work define much of the musical catalogue created by Bowling Green-based band, Buffalo Rodeo.

From the juxtaposition of chaotic breaks and joyously insightful lyrics found in “A. Hook” on the band’s 2012 sophomore album, Common Cults, to the ethereally impassioned feel of their latest single, “Cargo,” Buffalo Rodeo’s music is fresh, inspiring, and, in a sense, spiritual. And with a new EP, Home Videos, set for release in March, there’s no doubt that the unique musical atmosphere they have created will expand. 

Never heard of this progressive band of musical gypsies?

Even if you haven’t, the Sugg Street Post recently got the chance to interview the up-and-coming five-piece to find out what the story is behind their name, their influences, plans they have for the future, and much more. And, like their sweeping, experimental compositions, the individual and collectively-voiced answers they offered us are perhaps some of the most original responses we’ve received so far—and that’s a really great thing.

Luke Short: Who are the members of Buffalo Rodeo and where are you all from?

Buffalo Rodeo: Buffalo Rodeo is comprised of Zach Preston on vocals, Ryan Gilbert on drums, Nathaniel Davis on guitars, Jordan Reynolds on keys and vocals, and Patrick Duncan on bass. We all reside in Bowling Green.

LS: How and when did you all meet up and start jamming?

BR: There was an earthquake and we met under a rainbow of glorious salvation and love; forever.

LS: What is the meaning behind your name, and how does it fit with your music?

BR: We have a neighbor who is really into Native American culture and he also used to be a bull rider. However, one night while he was meditating and smoking the medicinal and spiritual holy plant, God came down to him from high and said, “Two Rivers”—which was his name—“your destiny is to ride the great white buffalo,” and when he told us about this, we knew that our calling had come. We named ourselves thusly: Buffalo Rodeo. Amen.

LS: Do you define your music by a certain genre?

BR: Progressive indie experimental alternative rock.

LS: What are all the albums you’ve released since forming?

BR: We released Wanderers in 2011, Common Cults in 2012, and are in the process of finishing our latest EP, Home Videos, which is due for release in March.

LS: So, what's the story behind the new release? Where are you recording it? 

BR: We're recording Home Videos at Greyskull Recording Studios here in Bowling Green. We're really excited to release this EP because the music is a lot different than any of the other stuff we've previously recorded. It's also going to be the first recordings we have with Jordan and Patrick on them.

LS: Who are some of your major influences musically?

BR: Portugal. The Man, Local Natives, Manchester Orchestra, Arcade Fire, and Band of Horses.

LS: Who are some of your major influences outside of music?

BR: Family, God, and friends.

LS: With a lot of your music, there is this sense of spaciousness and freedom, as well as some powerful emotional chaos. Is that something intentional or does it all come out spontaneously when you’re jamming and recording together?

BR: A lot of our music has evolved from spontaneous jamming; however, we also spend a lot of time deliberately and meticulously sifting through each part to make sure that everything sounds as it should. So, in essence, our music is the product of spontaneity and careful decision.

LS: What kind of instruments do you use?

BR: Bass - Fender P. Bass and Warwick Powerbass; Drums - Ludwig Vistalites; Keys - Nord Electro 2 and Roland Juno-Stage; Vocals - baller-ass chops; Nate - an excessive amount of rare, vintage, badass gear that only a gearhead would be able to identify properly.

LS: What are some of the most memorable places playing music has taken you?

BR: [Bowling Green’s] Starry Nights Festival and Movers and Shakers in Chicago.


LS: Who are some of BR’s favorite local bands?

BR: Cage the Elephant, Sleeper Agent, Morning Teleportation, Mahtulu, The Black Shades, The Fair-Weather Kings, Canago, Heavy Chase, and Schools.

LS: You guys are based out of Bowling Green, KY, and there’s a very strong music and arts scene there—and has been for a long time now. What are some the components of BG that keep the scene alive and strong in your opinion?

BR: Honestly, one big component in the BG scene is the fact that there’s not that much to do in Bowling Green…besides play music. The things that people do on the weekends mostly consists of going to a show. There’s constantly music being played or watched. There’s also a big respect for music that goes on. We have a lot of inspiration from our peers—people like Cage and Sleeper Agent and other bands that have gone out and tried to make a name for themselves.

LS: For a community like Madisonville and Hopkins County that is just starting to really grow artistically, is there any advice you can offer to improve upon the scene here?

BR: Start more bands, play more music. It always helps to have a good venue in the area, so out of town bands can come in and play as well. Get a decent sized bar to invest in a good sound system and start having shows.

LS: What is BR’s ultimate goal with music?

BR: We’d like to do this, for real. We want to tour and play music for our lives and not have to have other jobs. Music is what we love, and we want to do it always.

LS: What kind of plans do you have for the future?

BR: In the short future, we’re just going to tour as much as possible and get our name out there to people in other places. We just got a van, so we’re really excited to get out on the road. After that, we’d love to get picked up by a record label of some type and release a full record. That would be tight.



LS: Where can people check you out?

BR: You can check us out at www.facebook.com/buffalorodeo, buffalorodeo.bandcamp.com, and on Twitter @buffalorodeo.

LS: In closing, feel free to give some shout-outs.

BR: We want to give a shout-out to Jordan’s dad for being a cool guy, to Greyskull recordings for recording our EP, and to Richard, our neighbor, for painting that cow skull in our living room.

Want to check out Buffalo Rodeo’s music right now? Simply click on the the ReverbNation player attached below this article, visit their official Facebook page, or check out some of the links mentioned above.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos provided by Sean Marshall Studios/Buffalo Rodeo

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Alonzo Pennington - The Musical Legacy Rolls On

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (2/18/13)—He’s known and respected as one of our region’s finest musicians, he’s internationally recognized for his thumbpicking prowess, he’s played alongside some of the world’s most notable musicians, and he’s performed at some of the country’s most recognized venues, including Nashville’s revered Grand Ole Opry. But, for Alonzo Pennington, playing music is much more than a superficial talent that garners him acclaim and financial success. For Alonzo, music resides deep within his DNA and it pours out through his fingers and vocal chords when he takes to the stage or studio. As a result, Alonzo’s outlook on music is truly unfettered, pure, and artistic.

So, what kind of music does Alonzo play? In truth, he’s all-terrain. From twang-laden country tunes and his work with full-on, multi-piece jazz ensembles, to his world-renowned thumbpicking and his powerful, rough-edged blend of blues—which seems to be where his real “home” lies—Alonzo’s love for music is apparent in the breadth of genres he enjoys. “Good music is good music regardless of the style,” he explains, and it’s this approach that has allowed Alonzo to freely incorporate a variety of elements and instruments into his original music over the years. Additionally, it’s allowed to him to be an entertainer in the most literal sense of the word. And, if this weren’t enough, he’s skilled on more than just the guitar and microphone; he also plays a mean fiddle, bass guitar, mandolin, drums, and more.

Yet, beyond the awards, the variety of awe-inspiring abilities he possesses, and all that he and his family have done to keep the local music scene and thumbpicking style alive, Alonzo is a humble, down-to-earth soul that simply enjoys playing music and creating new things.

But who is Alonzo? What is his outlook on music? And how did he get to the point he’s at today?

Fortunately, myself, photographer Jeff Harp, and writer Jessica Dockrey had the privilege of interviewing and photographing Alonzo a few weeks back. And not only did we find out the answers to the questions above, we also spoke about his newest, soon-to-be-released album, Roll On, his take on the region’s music scene, his family’s amazing history, and much, much more.

Luke Short: What’s your full name?

Alonzo Pennington: My full name is Edward Alonzo Pennington.

LS: Where did the name Alonzo come from?

Alonzo: I was named after my fourth great-grandfather, and he has quite the interesting story. He was supposedly the first white man legally hung in the entire state of Kentucky, and it was for murder. If you actually search my name online, it will bring up a lot of stuff about him. People sometimes get that confused until they see the date. Then it’s like, “Oh, well Alonzo’s not in trouble then” [laughs]. In the 1840’s, my great-grandfather was known to be a horse trader and a fiddle player. He was from Christian County, Kentucky, just northeast of Hopkinsville. Well, one day, he and a guy that he was neighbors with got into a disagreement. About a week later, they found his neighbor’s body in a cave. So, they go after my great-grandfather, but when they go to question him, they found that he had disappeared. He had decided that he wasn’t going to get a fair trial, and he’s saying the whole time, “I didn’t do this.” Well, about two years go by, and he’s moved to Texas and he’s tried to change his image. At the time, there was a 2,000 dollar bounty on my great-grandfather’s head. Then, this doctor heard about a guy playing fiddle down in Texas that matched my great-grandfather’s description, so he went down there to see, and, sure enough, it was my great-grandfather. They brought him all the way back from Texas up to the other side of Cadiz, KY in Canton on a flatboat. They gave him a “mock trial”; the judge turned his back to my great-grandfather when he went to speak. The punishment was to hang him. Of course, the whole time he’s still saying that he didn’t do it. So they go to hang him, but the first time they try, the rope breaks. It was supposed to be a sign by God that he was an innocent man. They weren’t supposed to rehang him, but they started putting another rope up. Well, while they were putting the new rope up, my great-grandfather sat down on his coffin and began to play his fiddle. He played a tune that’s now known as “The Pennington Farewell.” Then they hung him again. Two years later, a guy named Eli Cisney, who was dying of tuberculosis, came forward and confessed to the murder. So, my great-grandfather really was innocent. It’s interesting, because my granddad, before he passed away, still had the fiddle and what would have been his third great-grandfather’s Bible. My dad [world-renowned thumbpicker, Eddie Pennington] has all of that now. You know, my great-grandfather was known for being a musician, and when they arrested him in Texas, he was onstage playing fiddle in a square-dance band. They came and just took him right off the stage, and that was it.

LS: Why did they decide to name you after him?

Alonzo: My dad always said that if he had a son, he’d name him [after thumbpicking forefather] Merle Travis, but my mom didn’t exactly go for that [laughs]. So, I was named Edward Alonzo instead.

LS: Where is your family from originally?

Alonzo: My dad grew up in Nortonville, Kentucky and my mother was born in Kingsport, Tennessee. They met in Louisville, Kentucky while my dad was in mortuary college. I think that was about 1977. They got married in 1979 and moved to Princeton, Kentucky. My dad worked at Morgan’s Funeral Home until about 1993. Since then, he’s kind of done his own thing—just sharpening saw blades and traveling playing music.

LS: How did you first get into playing music?

Alonzo: I actually started out playing the fiddle. My granddad played the fiddle and I always wanted to be like my dad and granddad when I was little. So I started playing fiddle when I was five-years-old. I just kind of graduated to the guitar when I was about seven. The guitar was where I kind of fell love with the music side of everything. I enjoy playing the fiddle, but the guitar is what has really become home to me.

LS: Was your dad the one who really taught you how to play?

Alonzo: He always showed me different things, but he never really gave me a full-blown lesson or anything. If I wanted to learn something, I’d say, “Hey dad, what’s this?” and he’d show me. A lot of it came from just listening and being around a lot of other musicians. Of course, my dad always had me around a lot of great musicians when I was little, and I know that was a big asset for me. I can do some of the things I can do because I got to be around people like Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed at a very young age.

LS: What was one of the first songs you learned to play?

Alonzo: On the fiddle, one of the first things I learned was “The Tennessee Waltz.” That was one of my granddad’s favorite tunes and he played it a lot. My grandmother used to tell the story of how, one day—after I’d only had my fiddle for a couple days—I just picked it up on my own and started playing “The Tennessee Waltz.” I was figuring it out without anybody showing me anything. The first song a lot of people learn is [the Carter Family’s] “Wildwood Flower” or something like that with a really simple melody, so I learned something like that on guitar. But, instead of learning a lot of single string picking type things on the guitar, I learned a lot of thumbpicking first, which is where you use your thumb to play the rhythm and your forefingers to play the melody.

LS: And that’s a style that Merle Travis and Chat Atkins were known for, right?

Alonzo: Yeah, Merle Travis and Chet Atkins were known for their use of that style, and it’s a style that’s from right here in Kentucky.

LS: Merle Travis was really one of the style’s inventors, too, wasn’t he?

Alonzo: Yeah, Merle Travis, Mose Rager, and the Everly Brothers’ father, Ike Everly. It’s a true western Kentucky style of music.

LS: Is it fair to say that were able to play guitar naturally?

Alonzo: Yeah, I’m pretty lucky. I haven’t had to work at it as hard at it as some people I know, because it does come natural to me, but there are a lot of other things that I have work a lot harder at. For instance, school wasn’t one of my favorite things to do [laughs], but I made it through.

LS: Growing up, who were some of your biggest influences?

Alonzo: The thumbpicking guitar stuff and all the guys involved with it, and even people that weren’t necessarily famous but were great guitar players—like Odell Martin and others like that—had a huge influence on me. But when I was about 12-years-old, there was a guy on my school bus that had a brother that played guitar, and he said, “Hey man, my brother showed me this song [by legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn] called, ‘Pride and Joy’.” Well, he wanted me to come over after school so he could let me listen to it, and he played the intro lick. When I heard it, I was like, “Man, I’ve got to learn how to play that,” and that was it for me. Then it was like, there’s Stevie Ray Vaughn, and BB King, and then there’s Jimi Hendrix, and it just opened up so much more to me. Being that I’d already learned a [thumbpicking] style that’s a lot more complicated—because there’s more intricacy and a lot more going on when you’re using your thumb and all three fingers—the blues came easier to me. A lot of the blues is about styling and technique. You know, anybody can play the note from here to here, but it’s how you get there that matters. A lot of it is about little things that you can’t even describe. It might even be about putting a little pressure on the guitar somewhere to make it produce a certain sound or something like that.

LS: Real blues music is more about the feeling of it and the emotion it evokes than anything else.

Alonzo: Yeah, it really is.

LS: At what point did you actually start writing your own music?

Alonzo: I think I was about 11 or 12-years-old when I wrote my first song, and it came after I had my first break-up with a girl [laughs]. I think I was in sixth or seventh grade, or something like that, and I wrote her this goofy little song. It said something like, “If you left me today, I don’t know what I’d do,” [laughs] and that’s the first song I remember writing. Ever since then, I’ve been on a writing spree. In total, I’ve got about 350 to 450 songs that I’ve written.

Jessica Dockrey: Do you remember all of them?

Alonzo: No, I don’t remember all of them. I can go out and play four hours of cover tunes and remember every word to them, and then I’ll play one of mine that I’ve had written for years and it’ll change every time. I’ll make something up on the spot or just totally forget.

LS: Was that first song you wrote to your ex-girlfriend a blues song?

Alonzo: It was probably a mushy country-type song. It was probably pretty awful [laughs].

LS: When did you first start going out and playing gigs?

Alonzo: I think I was 15-years-old and me and some kids from my hometown put together a little band. At the time, there was a place in Paducah called the Working Artist’s Café. It wasn’t really a bar, but it had a bar in it. Well, I’d been going down there with a friend and we went in there one day, and I took them a tape with recordings of our practices on it. They were like, “We’ll let you come in sometime,” and I think they ended up giving us 100 dollars for five of us to come in and play. So, we played that little gig and, of course, we were playing a lot of blues—mostly just cover songs—and when we finished, this guy from club next door came over and told us he had just opened up. He said, “I need somebody to come in and play next weekend. I really can’t find anybody. Would you all be interested?” Well, I told him that I wasn’t 21-years-old, but he said that as long as I wasn’t hanging out at the bar it would be alright. So, I’m 15-years-old at this point and I’m the youngest member of the band. Everyone else was getting ready to get out of high school or already out of high school. So, we go in, and the name of the place was The Point, and we were playing, but no women were there. It was kind of strange. Well, like I said, this place had just reopened, and we came to find out that this place had been a gay bar the week before. So that was my second gig ever [laughs]. LJ Granstaff, who plays with me now, was in that band with me and we still laugh about that sometimes.

LS: What was the name of that first band?

Alonzo: I think we called ourselves Let Me In or something like that.

Jessica Dockrey: Were you ever in band during high school or anything like that?

Alonzo: I was in band from sixth grade to the eighth grade. When it came time to start marching and stuff—when I was getting ready to be a freshman in high school—they started wanting us to compete in a lot of sight-reading competitions. Well, I just couldn’t read music, and I’d already spent three years in band faking my way through, not reading music at all, because I can play by ear. I would listen to a song once or twice and I would have my part down. I played tenor saxophone. Well, the band director found out I couldn’t read music, and he said, “I think you need to find something else to do,” so I joined the FFA [Future Farmers of America].

LS: From there, and after you’d played those first shows with your band, where did you go with music?

Alonzo: Those shows were kind of the first part of ‘my project’—me fronting a band or whatnot—but I had been playing and traveling with my dad since I was five or six-years-old. Me and my little sister, Rosebud, would play with him. She was only three-years-old playing fiddle, and we’d all go to things like Kiwanis Club and Lions Club meetings to play. We’d do Christmas parties and stuff. It was just mostly small shows, but that’s where we got started.

LS: So, you were kind of a seasoned musician by the time you were in your teens?

Alonzo: Yeah, I’d been playing out since I was big enough to play an instrument.

LS: You never had any stage fright or anything like that?

Alonzo: It was all pretty natural. I never really freaked out on stage or anything like that.

LS: Did you always play guitar when you got older and were in a band?

Alonzo: Yeah, when I’d play with my own group, it was always on guitar. Even now it’s mostly guitar. Every now and then, I’ll still play some fiddle, too, though.

LS: You toured with country star John Michael Montgomery for a while, too. Tell me a little bit about that.

Alonzo: Yeah, I worked for John Michael Montgomery for a while, so I got to see what it was like to travel with a superstar—someone who has 20 or so number one hits and lives on a bus with 10 or so other people—and take small pay for it.

LS: How did that relationship come about?

Alonzo: It all took place about two years ago. It was the day after Christmas and I got a call from a friend that said he’d ran into John Michael’s bus driver. They were actually friends up in Lexington, Kentucky, and he said, “Hey, I heard that John Michael’s crew is looking for someone to sing some backup vocals, play some guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, and to help with utilities. I wanted to know if you’d be interested. If you are, I’ll give them your name.” I was like, “Yeah, sure, give them name. Whatever.” Then, about 30 minutes later, I get a phone call asking me if I was Alonzo Pennington. I told them I was, and this voice says, “Hello, this is country music singer John Michael Montgomery.” That’s exactly how he said it, too [laughs]. So, we talked for a little bit and he hired me over the phone. He’d looked up some stuff of me playing on YouTube and things like that before he called I guess, just to see if I could really play. It was a neat experience. We got to do some cool things. I got to play the Grand Old Opry [in Nashville, TN], which has probably been one of the biggest highlights of my career. But, as for going and doing that kind of thing, it’s really not for me. And I think that was the main difference between me and some of the other people in the band. He’d just hired an all-new band and everyone was excited, because we’re going out on the road and making decent money—or at least it was supposed to be good money [laughs]. So, that was everybody’s goal: to play for somebody. With me, I guess I always just wanted to be that somebody, you know? For me, I’m not the kind of person who can go out and play the same thing the same way every single time. Doing that with John Michael was fine, and he had a great band; we sounded just like the record every time we played “I Swear” or “Grundy County Auction” or anything like that. I don’t know. I guess that just bored me really quickly. Part of it is that I’m not just a musician; I’m an artist. I like to create, and I like to write, and I like to do things differently, and I like to just let things freely form and happen sometimes. When we play our shows, and if it’s a big show, we might have a set list, but a lot of the times we don’t even do that. We usually just play to the crowd to see what everyone is into, but we never play our songs the same way twice. There are no solos that are the same every time, with the exception of a signature lick like the intro to “Pride and Joy.”

LS: That really seems to be what the spirit of playing blues is. Blues and bluesy rock and roll is more about improvisation and a spontaneous feeling than anything else.

Alonzo: Personally, it kills me when people play the same song the exact same way every time, because it’s like, “OK, you can do that. Now what else can you with it?”

LS: So, when did the Alonzo Pennington Band actually form?

Alonzo: I guess this will be the eleventh year that we’ve been together. We started out with myself, [drummer] Dean Hughes from Princeton, Kentucky, and [bassist] Bobby Harper from Cadiz, Kentucky. They are a little bit older—both in their 50’s—but they are well-seasoned musicians and they can really play. We were a blues trio.

LS: How did you all meet?

Alonzo: Well, with Dean being from Princeton, I’d known him for a while. I first met Bobby when me and dad were playing a show in Murray, Kentucky. Bobby was playing for someone else, and he and Dean had kind of already become friends. Well, me and Dean were talking about starting up a band, something just to experiment, and, ideally, we wanted to do some acoustic stuff, too. However, our ideas and what it turned into are completely different [laughs]. So, we did that as a trio for about five years, and then we picked up a young girl from Puryear, Tennessee named Angela Mosley. She was born blind, but she is a crazy good piano player. I mean, she is Ray Charles good. So, we all worked together for a while and, after so long, they kind of got tired of playing bars and clubs and gigs and all that. Now, I’m the only original member left from that time. Angela is a staff musician for the Kentucky Opry. She plays there every weekend now. Bobby and Dean kind of play when they want to these days, but every now and then we’ll plan something where we can all play together again. It’s usually a jazz gig or something like that, because they are all pretty much “jazzers,” whereas I’m more of the rough-edge, rock and blues kind of guy. Fortunately, Bobby has eight brothers, and they all play music. So I’ve been able to pick through them, and one of them, Brian Harper, is my drummer, and another is Sidney Harper, who plays bass. We’ve also got LJ Granstaff from Princeton who is playing guitar now. Like I mentioned earlier, he was also in the very first band I ever played with. He’s toured with a really big Christian group called Special D that’s really popular and he has a music store in Princeton, Kentucky called Granny’s Music. We’ve recently hired a young kid from here in Madisonville named Andy Torian. He’s originally from Cadiz, KY. He plays keyboards and sings really well. He’s great. So, over time, we’ve floated everything from a three-piece to a duo, and when we performed at Saturdays on the Square in Greenville, Kentucky last year, we brought in a full horn section and two keyboard players. That full, multi-piece band thing is fun, but it can be a little chaotic sometimes [laughs]. Whereas some people want to keep things controlled in that kind of situation, I think that a free, off-the-handle approach is where some of the magic of music comes from. Just letting it take its own natural course allows the music to almost create itself. When I’ve tried to control things and micromanage, everything always seems to fall apart and feel unnatural. So, to me, I work best when I’m unprepared, just letting it happen [laughs].

LS: You mix a lot of acoustic and electric guitar together in your music, and there’s definitely the sound of the blues and blues-rock in there, but there’s also some country feel. That being said, what style do you consider yourself?

Alonzo: I’m actually asked that a lot, but I’m not really sure how to categorize it. So, sometimes before booking a show, I’ll ask what the venue is looking for, be it country, rock, blues, or a little bit of all of it. Luckily, I play with people that can play all those styles well. We’ll do stuff from Eric Church all the way to stuff from Freddie King and BB King. We play a wide variety of things. For me, I just like music, and I like good feeling music, and I don’t really care what style it is. That’s probably why I’m not on the radio. I don’t have a country album and I don’t have a blues album—I’ve got all these styles together in one album. That might seem unorganized to some people, but I think good music is good music regardless of the style.

LS: Playing those different styles probably keeps you happy and inspired, too.

Alonzo: You know, I love bluegrass, but there’s only so much bluegrass you can take. I love blues, but after a long night, there’s only so much blues you can take. You have to have a little something else now and then. When I was about seven-years-old, my dad was playing fiddle for a square-dance band, and he was working for the funeral home, but he’d get to the point where he couldn’t go all the time. So, for my first job, I started playing fiddle for the square-dance band. Well, we started playing the American Legion over in Hopkinsville every Saturday night. With that, I really cut my teeth on playing for other people, learning a lot of songs, and just playing a lot of the old country songs by Merle Haggard, George Jones, and that kind of stuff. So, I have a real love for real country music, too. I just grew up around all of it. In going with dad to all these festivals, his style of music—thumbpicking—is brought into it, too. You know, the [Pennington] Folk Festival we have every year [in Princeton, Kentucky], and a folk festival in general, includes a lot of different kinds of music. With that, I’d get to be around all kinds of great blues singers and players, too, and the cool thing about these festivals is that, when it’s all said and done, everybody stays at the same hotels. So, there will be big jam sessions and people will be sitting around at these hotels just playing together. I got to see all this at a real young age, and I was lucky to be in the company of people that loved to play and were really, really good at it.

LS: Outside of the Pennington Folk Festival, were there other festivals that you got to attend that had similar vibes?

Alonzo: We modeled the Pennington Folk Festival after a lot of other festivals we’d played at and been to. You know, we’ve played a couple really big gigs, too. Dad played the Olympics in 1996 when they were in Atlanta, Georgia. We played the Smithsonian Institute’s 150th Anniversary festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC in 1995. That was the first really big festival I had done. We’ve done several of the national folk festivals, too. Those festivals are really cool, because they’re free most of the time and they bring in a lot of performers that aren’t mainstream acts, but are extremely good at what they do. A lot of people enjoy talking about what they do and want to share their knowledge about it. It’s not just about playing their show and leaving, and I think being around those kinds of people has kind of helped to shape the direction I’m going in today—the way I approach it and the way I play.

LS: When did the Pennington Folk Festival actually start?

Alonzo: This year will be our sixteenth year.

LS: Was your dad the one who started the festival?

Alonzo: The city of Princeton and the Princeton Art Guild started it. They wanted a music festival and they thought that honoring my dad through that festival would be something good for the city. It has been. It’s brought in tourism and things like that. Since the start, it’s grown from three acts on the same night as Black Patch, to this year where we’re going to have legendary country singer, Gene Watson. Over the years, we’ve had Bobby Bare, and Nickel Creek, and Junior Brown—and we’re bringing in these big acts to a town of 3,500 people, but there’s always more than that standing there at the stage. So, it’s really neat and it continues to grow every year.

LS: I’m sure you all have a big hand in organizing the festival, but are there others that help out as well?

Alonzo: There are several people on the folk festival committee, so if I tried to say that me and dad did most of the work, that would be a total lie [laughs]. Really, the only thing that we’re involved in, other than our own performances on stage, is helping to pick some of the acts and getting in contact with them because we know a lot of people.

LS: In that capacity, I’m sure you all are able to bring attention to a lot of people and performers that might not have otherwise been selected for the festival, too.

Alonzo: It does help. You know, people might not have heard of someone like Wayne Henderson, who is an amazing Appalachian guitarist and guitar builder. This guy built guitars for Eric Clapton, and we’ve brought him out to the festival before. We’ve even had people there that we didn’t know were going to be there at times. Mary Ann Fisher, a “Raylette” who played with Ray Charles—she’s the one who threw the brick through Ray’s window in the movie [Ray]—was there singing with another band and they never even introduced her. We had Nickel Creek perform the year that they were just blowing up and turning out hits. We had a big turnout for that one. Of course, [Nickel Creek mandolinist and singer] Chris Thile and I went to Murray State University together, so we knew each other and had played several things together there on campus. Then, all the sudden, Nickel Creek was huge and we were like, “Hey, we’ve got them booked” [laughs]. They were getting something around 25 to 30 thousand dollars elsewhere to play, and we were paying them about 1,500 bucks.

LS: So, coming from this musical family and then going out and playing clubs, as well as other gigs, you were really getting your name out there. From there, you won several prestigious awards. Tell me a little about that.

Alonzo: Yeah. In 1998 or 1999, I won the National Tumbpicking contest and then the International Thumbpicking Contest. I’m still the only one who’s won both awards in the same year. Then, in 2011, I went back and won the International Contest again. I believe I’m also the only person who’s won the International Tumbpicking Contest twice.

LS: How are those contests set up and what’s that whole experience like?

Alonzo: You go in and some of the contest judges are behind a curtain so you can’t see them. They’ll have you play like three songs and there’ll be two rounds. If you make the cut from the first round, you’re off to the second round, and if you make it through that, you go on to finals. Most of the time, the finals have about five players. Then, you just go out and play another three songs. The last time I won the International Contest, I had two playoffs in the end, because me and the guy that I was competing against—a guy from Missouri—tied two different times. Well, we had to have two different playoffs, and, finally, I think I just wore him out [laughs]. Those are about the only times I get nervous—at contests like that. I like competition and I like being competitive, but I never really liked it with my music. Doing it for a living is competitive enough. I’m not so much of a clean and precise player as I am an entertainer, and that’s really where it kind of branches out for me. Some people are great players, but they’re not entertainers. With me, I’m kind of like, “I don’t have it worked out. I don’t have an arrangement. I’m just going to go out here and let it happen. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, but I’m not going to force it. I’ll let it flow.”

Jessica Dockrey: Do you compete in the thumbpicking contests every year?

Alonzo: No. I hadn’t competed since I won that first year, but they were giving away a nice guitar in 2011 and I thought, “I think I’m going to try it out” [laughs]. Actually, if you win the contest, you can’t come back for another five years, and I didn’t really want to, but I finally decided to try it again and I’m glad I did.

LS: What were some of the prizes you won?

Alonzo: I’ve won cash, I’ve won handmade guitars, and I’ve won trophies. Of course, garnering recognition and winning some bragging rights are always good, too [laughs].

LS: What do you think has kept the thumbpicking style, as well as the history behind it, alive after all these years?

Alonzo: You know, the fingerstyle and thumbpicking guitar community is such a tightly knit group, and if it wasn’t, that style might not even be around. My dad and some other people really started trying to preserve that legacy back in the early 1980’s. It was dying out and people didn’t even know what it was—even people around here. To this day, there are still a lot of people around here, and even in Muhlenberg County where thumbpicking came from, that don’t even know what the style is or that it even exists. It’s really pretty crazy. So, my dad and his friends do what they can, and the former Judge-Executive of Muhlenberg County, Rodney Kirtley, helped to get a lot things going that recognize the style, too. Today, Muhlenberg is host to the National Thumbpicker’s Hall of Fame and the Merle Travis Center as well. I was actually lucky enough to go to Washington, DC to play for the [US Senate] Appropriations Committee. I played for Senator Ted Stevens and the rest of the committee, and lobbied for the 4 million dollars it took to build the Hall of Fame. I think I was 19-years-old at the time [laughs] and they allocated the money right then and there. Other things came up, and we had some issues with our own state representatives—they were saying to use the money for other things—but, finally, they go it built and finalized about three years ago. It’s an amazing building. Acoustically speaking, you’re not going to find anywhere else around here like it. The whole building is built specifically to make guitar music sound good. It’s first-class all the way. My dad’s there in the Hall of Fame and I received an award from there. I won the 2011 Thumbpicker’s Hall of Fame “Album of the Year” for my record, Thumbin’.

LS: I haven’t heard a lot from that album, but I understand that you played every instrument on the entire record. What instruments does that include?

Alonzo: I sing on it and there’s bass guitar, fiddle, drums, mandolin, and, of course, guitar. I’ve got a new album that’s not released yet, too. It’s totally finished, but I’m kind of waiting on funding to print it and all that stuff. It’s kind of the same way as Thumbin’, but it’s more blues-based.

LS: Are you talking about your new album, Roll On?

Alonzo: Yeah, it’s all me on this one, too.

LS: Since you play all the instruments, what’s the recording process like?

Alonzo: I’m better at guitar than I am at anything else, and it’s because I don’t spend as much time with other instruments. I think my most natural instrument—the one that I can just pick up and play naturally—is still the fiddle, though. I don’t play it very often, because I don’t enjoy it as much as I do playing the guitar. So, I haven’t worked at it and my technique probably isn’t what it should be. I remember being little and my dad had a little four-track recorder. I always thought that was really cool. He’d let me try to record a little bit every now and then. Then, when I was seven or eight-years-old, he bought me my own recorder. You could only record one track at a time, so I’d sit there and play and sing something, and then I’d give the recordings away as Christmas presents or something. So, that’s always something that I’ve always been into. I really enjoy digging into recording different things. Now, I’ve got a full studio and I record all my own stuff. It’s not a million-dollar studio or anything, but it has enough equipment to capture what I’m trying to do for other people.

LS: I did an interview with respected singer-songwriter Pat Ballard near the launch date of the Sugg Street Post and he mentioned that he had recorded some tracks with you. You’ve recorded several other people, too, haven’t you?

Alonzo: I’ve worked with several people, such as Pat Ballard and [local country and Americana artist] James Michael Harris, and I’ve recorded a couple of my dad’s albums, too. My fiancé, Rochalle Gray, and I are getting ready to open up a store in Princeton on Main Street. She’s an artist. She’s into crafts and she paints, too. The front of the store is going to display her arts and crafts—she makes candles and all kinds of other cool stuff like that—and the back part is going to be where my recording equipment will be set up. I’ll offer some music lessons and stuff there, too.

LS: So, is there a specific reason that you’re calling your new album Roll On?

Alonzo: It’s kind of like I want to keep on doing what I’m doing. Instead of saying, “We’re a country band,” and trying to appeal to just that crowd, I’m going to just keep on pushing what I’m doing. With the album, everything is original and "Roll On” is actually a track on the record. You know, with traveling all the time and just constantly going nonstop and playing everywhere, I feel like I’m just rolling on, you know? [laughs]

LS: Throughout your life, what have been some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had with music?

Alonzo: I’ve done a lot and I’ve been really fortunate to be on stage with people like Willie Nelson and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Like I mentioned earlier, playing on the Grand Ole Opry was huge, too. Some of the things that are the most memorable from playing music are also the times that I’d sit around in the living room with my dad and granddad, and their friends, just playing together. I’ve played and sang something at all four of my grandparents’ funerals, too, and while those times were some of the hardest, I feel honored that I got to do that.

LS: A lot of musicians that we’ve interviewed have mentioned you as both an influence and someone they truly respect. For many, you are one of the only true musical staples in our region, and I think that’s definitely a fair statement. For you, having such an impact on the community at large, what are your thoughts on the local music scene?

Alonzo: I honestly didn’t really know I had any influence on the music scene [laughs]. But, personally, I dig it when people are being artistic and doing original stuff instead of trying to sound exactly like someone else. I like different things. For instance, my buddy Randy Stone’s band, GypsyLifter, which Chad Estes and Landon Miller are also a part of, is really great. I dig what they’re doing, and I like that they’re pushing original stuff. Pat Ballard is a great songwriter, too. It’s a shame that the music scene doesn’t really seem to be growing, though, because there’s not too many places for it to grow. The places where there is music around here—places like bars where people want to hear the same thing that’s on the jukebox—aren’t really into the other side of music. We just don’t have as many people that are into the artistic side of making music. Hopefully, we can grow that scene one day and there will be enough people who are like-minded, ones who are tired of hearing the same old thing, people that are ready for something new, something they can groove to, something that has some soul to it, or something that has a cool underlying meaning that you’ve got to figure out—just anything that’s better than the same old thing that’s out there. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t go out and play all original stuff. If I did that, I wouldn’t be able to make a living. We play a lot of cover songs. I would say about 80 percent of what we play live are cover songs, and that’s only out of necessity. I couldn’t get work playing weddings and I couldn’t get work playing clubs if I did only original music. Ideally, though, I would prefer to play just a few select covers and I’d do them my way, and that’s really what we do when we perform covers anyway. We keep them close enough to the original versions that they’re still recognizable, of course, but we definitely put our own spin on them.

LS: Going back to your earlier days, when did you actually start singing?

Alonzo: I’ve always sang, and that’s never been my favorite part of it, because I’ve never really been a singer. I still don’t call myself a singer; I’m a guitar player.

LS: Is singing with your band now kind of out of necessity, too?

Alonzo: In a way. My dad’s theory was that people wouldn’t come to just hear instrumental music over and over. He said, “If you ever want to make a living, you’re going to have to start singing.” I’d heard him say that to several other people my age that were coming up and needed some advice. He’d just tell them to sing.

LS: Your dad is an entertainer through and through, too, so singing and talking is a huge part of his style and performance.

Alonzo: And for the people that might not play guitar, they can understand and relate to the vocals perhaps more than the intricacy of what he’s doing with his right or left hand. Most people are more easily entertained if what they’re hearing or seeing is something that’s easier to understand, you know?

LS: Beyond having more venues, do you think there are other things that could be done to improve the scene? Are there things that could help to reshape local people’s perspective on music in general?

Alonzo: I really don’t know. You know, just having the information put in front of people is a big thing, and that’s something that you guys are doing. I really appreciate you having me here, because that helps put me in front of people I might not have been in front of otherwise. People might see it and say, “Who’s this? Why are they writing about him?” Maybe they’ll like what I do and maybe they won’t, but at least the information is out there so that they can pick and choose what they want. I think if people really understand that there’s more than what comes out of mainstream radio, they might find more things that they like. It might not be country or folk or blues or anything like that, or they may decide they really do like the radio, but at least they have and are aware that they have choices. I think limited information has been part of the problem. Of course, over the last few years, the internet has really been able to help with that issue, because people can put themselves out there a little bit more. They can promote their music and they can say, “You’re not going to hear this on the radio, but hear it is anyway.” The Hudsons, who own the car lot in Madisonville, called me back in the fall and we did the “Rocking for Research” festival they held out there. I was fortunate enough to know some of the people there, so they asked me if I would kind of head the bill and put the thing together. So, I was able to bring my dad in, we had Pat Ballard, and we had [award-winning Madisonville blues guitarist] Boscoe France, too. That was all regional music, and things like that and people like the Hudsons are helping the scene. People like me and my dad—or Boscoe and others like him—are doing this for a living, and we’d like to play for free because we enjoy doing it and we enjoy sharing what we can do with other people, but we really can’t. It takes money to make the world go round, you know? I was really grateful to the Hudsons for hosting the show, and they actually want to do it again this spring. We haven’t put an exact date on it yet, but they’re letting me find unique local acts to bring in again. It’s because they want stuff like that; they want something different, something that’s artistic, and something that’s homegrown.

LS: Where can people find your music?

Alonzo: People can check me out and order my albums from my website [www.alonzopenningtonmusic.com], and you can hear my music on our Facebook page, ReverbNation, and on things like iTunes.

LS: Other than the release of your new album, do you have any big shows or events coming up?

Alonzo: We’ve got the Pennington Folk Festival coming up this summer in Princeton. That’s going to be held from May 31st to June 1st. Typically, the Friday night that kicks the festival off is kind of my night and the following Saturday is kind of dad’s night. When it first started, we had everything on one day, but we kind of asked ourselves, “What if we add in Friday night, too?” And then we could kind of build up to a whole weekend-long festival, so that’s what we did. They kind of let me take over the Friday night portion of the festival as far as the booking goes, and instead of having so much folk, bluegrass and country, it’s kind of the night we get to rock it out. It goes a little later that night and we usually bring in a younger crowd that night, too. I’m excited about this year, because we’re going to have Boscoe France, Gene Watson on Saturday, and we’re working on a lot of other people, too. Some of it we can’t put out there yet, too. It’s really a shame that we don’t have more venues like that festival. I don’t understand why it has to be one time a year. I’ve been really impressed with what Greenville, Kentucky has been doing with their downtown [Saturdays on the Square] events in the summer. I thought, if there’s a hundred people, it’ll be cool, but there was like 2,500 people. I was blown away. I had no idea [laughs]. I asked them if they did this once a year and they said they did it once a month. I think that’s great. Anything that’s entertainment costs money in this economy, but I think people are starting to invest in themselves. More people want their kids to learn how to play guitar versus playing a video game. Video games get old and you’re going to have to buy another one. A musical instrument is endless. You know, you could play on the thing for years, and while the instrument may wear out, what comes out of it and what you create with it doesn’t. It doesn’t go by the wayside with technology. It’s something you create and it’s something that builds inside yourself, so I think that’s why there are more people that want their kids to take music lessons, and art lessons, or anything like that. A dream of mine is to one day have some kind of art and music institute here in western Kentucky, and it would be great if it was something that gave underprivileged children the opportunity to come in and learn. In Muhlenberg County, I know that the school system over there have gotten grants to bring in guitars so that they can offer a thumbpicking guitar class to their students. There are more things like that happening, too, and I think the more that happens the more we can move away from technology alone. I mean, technology’s great, but it’s not everything. I know I’m saying this to an online magazine [laughs], but that’s just the way media works and that’s how you reach people these days. I just think that if people start or continue to invest in themselves we will move the economy. There’s so much frivolous spending on random stuff people go and buy. Invest that money in yourself; invest that money in your kids. Teach them things and let them learn to teach themselves things, and let’s see where that takes us.

LS: What kind of advice would you give to an up-and-coming musician or group?

Alonzo: It’s not easy. To someone who wants to play or perform for a living, I would say go to college [laughs]. Get a real job first and then try to do it for a living. But for someone who really loves music, you don’t have to give them too much advice, because they love it and that’s where it all starts. If you’ve got it in your heart and in your soul, it doesn’t leave. As long as you take care of that and keep playing, it will continue to grow. Surround yourself with like-minded people. There is so much closed-mindedness, especially in this area of our country. Sometimes we only believe what comes out of CNN or Fox News, you know, and that limits us so much.

To learn more about Alonzo, to hear his music, or to purchase merchandise such as albums and t-shirts, check out Alonzo’s official site by clicking here. You can also find the Alonzo Pennington Band on Facebook or via ReverbNation. More information on the Pennington Folk Festival can be found by clicking here.

To listen to some of Alonzo’s music right now, simply click on the ReverbNation music player attached below this article.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jeff Harp

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Gear Guide—Patson’s Modded Fender and ‘Mutt’ Drum Kit

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (2/9/13)—Good music is born from a musician’s experiences, feelings, or ideas. Yet, without the proper instrument, attaining the desired expression and personality of a song can be difficult or nearly impossible. Fortunately, modern musicians have a plethora of finely tuned options at their disposal. From variations in tonewoods, string gauge, and speaker construction, to the customization of electronic pickups, drum heads, microphones, and beyond, contemporary players have the ability to dial in exactly what they want or need to get their “dream tone.”

But, on the flip side, figuring out the differences between each of these options can become a major, and often times confusing, learning process. That’s the beauty of it, though—it takes time to age into a fine musician.

So, instead of trying to lay everything out on the proverbial table, the Sugg Street Post would like to bring you periodic information about the instruments area musicians use to get the sound you hear live or on their records. Enter: The Gear Guide.

For this installment of The Gear Guide, we would like to bring you an in-depth—yet out of the ordinary—look at Patrick “Patson” Richardson’s modified Fender guitar and drum setup.

A literal master of his own musical destiny, Patrick creates and performs raw, original music on the mic, drums, and guitar simultaneously. And while it has taken some trial and error on Patrick’s part to find what works within this unique “one-man” context, the distinctive sound he now coins as his own—“Stag” style—is a powerful merger of unfettered, minimalistic approaches. The result: a fast-paced, in-your-face experience complete with squealing guitar distortion, booming drums, and wailing, punkish vocals. In truth, you’d be hard-pressed to ever find another musician like Patson.

Though Patrick’s inner drive to create “out of the box” sounds stands as the main piece to his musical puzzle, his customized guitar and one-of-a-kind drum kit are huge parts of what makes his remarkable, one-person creations possible.

So what are the technical specs and stories behind his customized Fender guitar and ornamented drums? Read on.

Modified Fender “Pawn Shop Series” ’72 Stratocaster – Tech Specs

Pickups—Two humbuckers; Fender “Enforcer” (bridge) and Fender “Wide Range” (neck)
Body Wood/Design—Semi-hollow, alder body with bound “f” hole
Neck Wood—Maple, 1950’s Fender reissue Stratocaster; maple fretboard
Neck Shape/Style—Soft “V” shape profile; 21 frets
Finish—3-color sunburst with custom “relic” modifications
Tuners—Standard chrome machine heads
Bridge/Tailpiece—70’s-style hard-tail Stratocaster bridge
Volume/Tone Controls—Master volume; (non-functioning) blend control

As noted by Patrick, the neck pickup adds its own curious flavor to the mix by operating at 10% of its full capacity (an electronic flaw) thereby making the sound it produces somewhat thinner and nearly incomparable.

Other than using a burlier, aftermarket reissue neck, Patrick also mentions that he’s modified the location of the guitar’s output jack, which helps to avoid onstage and in-studio space issues.

“I dropped the tone or ‘blend’ knob under the control plate so I could move the output jack, which was originally on the bottom edge of the body, into its place,” says Patrick. “Before I changed it around, it was hitting my snare drum down there and bending the insides of the jack, making for poor contact.”

In furthering the guitar’s ease of use in a one-man setting, Patrick also chose to remove the relatively bulky volume knob that originally came with the guitar and replaced it with rubber O-rings to keep from hitting it with his strumming hand. What’s more, Patrick has sanded down many of the sharp edges inherent to the guitar’s bridge to reduce cuts and scrapes when playing hard.

On his choice of steel, Patrick says he sticks with 10-gauge strings that are tuned down to E-minor or drop-D flat. He plucks them with a .60mm Jim Dunlop pick that is taped to the finger of a modified, fingerless leather glove, which also sports a bolted on drum stick (see photo below).

The wide, “Patson” guitar strap he uses onstage was handmade by a gentleman based out of Tennessee who—as Patrick testifies—has done custom work for notable performers Shooter Jennings and Joe Perry.

But how did Patrick come to own such a strange and unparalleled guitar?

“I was attracted to playing a Gibson 335 [semi-hollow body guitar], but the body was too thick for doing ‘Stag’ music. Plus, it was a little too ‘bassy’ for me,” says Patson. “I had begun playing guitar on a Stratocaster, so it's always felt completely natural to me. I tried other, less obvious guitars, but the Strat was what made the tone, and it felt like home, so I embraced it. My first ‘Patson’ Strat was a red HHS model. I later found the Pawn Shop model that looked more like what Merle Travis would have played, or even Bill Monroe's mandolin. I love the local tradition and heritage of music, so I want to melt into it as much I can.”

Regarding his choice of amp and electronics, such as effects pedals, Patson explains that, “I’d say a key part to my tone comes from the combination of the amp and mic placement simulators used in my Line 6 ‘POD X3.’ For most of the last couple of years, I had been using a big, 100-watt Mesa Boogie Mark III head with a Sunn 4x12 speaker cabinet for the high-end and a 15" bass combo by SWR for my sub-lows. I was always frustrated with how loud I had to run the Mesa to get my tone right, so I recently switched to another piece from the Fender Pawn Shop collection. It's called the ‘Excelsior.’ It’s a 13-watt, 1x15 combo that’s much easier to carry and sounds great. And it even looks cooler. I use the same thing live as in studio. I will go back to the big rig once I get to a point where I don’t have to carry all my stuff, and maybe when I’m playing outdoors and stuff more often. I like it loud, but not everyone does, so it’s good to have the option of both without affecting tone by going to the 13-watt amp.”

At the end of the day, though, what is it about this combination of electronics and his guitar that makes Patrick satisfied? And how does the combination help him in reaching the sound inside his head?

“I try to get a gritty, blues sound. I like Joe Buck’s old Shack Shakers tone, and Jack White’s tone is always rad; it’s all this dirty garage rock sound,” says Patrick. “The semi-hollow is a little different that the regular Strat, and it feels good. It helps me get that gritty sound. I’d also like to find and try an even thinner full hollow body, too.”

Now that the six-string piece of the puzzle is complete, let’s move on to the rhythm and thunder: the drums.

Patson’s Custom “Mutt” Drum Kit – Specs

• 26”, red sparkle Ludwig bass drum (originally from WKU’s marching band)
• Vintage Ludwig “Steel 14” snare drum
• 12” tom (on left); custom “Van Halen” covering
• 16” floor tom; custom-made in Nashville; custom “Peter Criss” covering
• Two, medium thickness, 20” (or bigger) jazz-tone, marching band Zildjian cymbals

Of the mix-matched set, Patrick explains that, “It's really a ‘mutt’ set made from random pieces. I use a red sparkle 26" Ludwig bass drum that was once part of Western Kentucky University's marching band. I am a big fan of [Led Zeppelin drummer] John Bonham, so I like to do things his way when I can. The vintage Ludwig snare I use is a steel 14 like John used. I have a 12" tom to my left that I custom covered to be a representation of Alex Van Halen's ‘1984 vibe.’ That was a big influence on me. I also use a 16" floor tom to my right. My floor tom was made for me by a good guy down in Nashville who built drum sets for [KISS drummer] Peter Criss through Pearl. The guy who made it used a covering that looked like the one Criss used for KISS’s 1977 album, Alive. It's very special to me since Peter Criss was the first drummer to really blow my mind as a kid with the “100,000 Years” drum solo. The coolest thing was that the guy who made the drum just knew to do it. I never even told him about how much I love Kiss; he just ‘vibed’ it. I like old marching band cymbals, too. I like Zildjians, preferably 20" or bigger. I use two of them that are medium thickness for jazz tones. So, my set really kind of represents some of my main influences. The kick drum is John Bonham/Meg White; the high tom is Alex Van Halen; and the floor tom is KISS. I enjoy representing them, if only just in my mind.”

So, how did Patrick accrue such a distinct bass drum, and what is the story behind it?

“As I mentioned, John Bonham’s sound is something I’ve always strived for,” says Patrick, “so that dictated my purchase of the 26” kick back in 1995. That’s really the only vital difference in these drums and other sets. I bought the drum at Royal Music in Bowling green from good ol’ Webb Hendricks. I was standing there just looking at it thinking, “This is Led Zeppelin all over,” and then Webb said it too, so I knew it had to be mine.”

Other than an emulation of John Bonham’s timeless and earth-shaking tone, though, what sounds can Patrick conjure from the setup and how does the kit fit with his self-proclaimed “Stag” style?

“I go for a jazzy sound when I can get it there; I like the drums to be loose,” explains Patrick. “Tracy Coss of Spider Virus was one of my biggest influences as a drummer. I spent many years learning all their songs, hoping to replace him in the band when he left, so his style bled into mine. I like the booming Bonham kick beat, too, even though it’s not so easy to do standing up. But I do all I can to stomp one out.”

And while the noticeable custom shell coverings, as well as the “Patson” adorned bass skin, may draw some immediate attention, there are also some even more unconventional “ornaments” that make Patrick’s playing completely personalized—and even kind of comical in certain respects (mainly the deer whistle).

“I have an old bird hood ornament on the top of the bass drum,” explains Patrick. “Someone once told me that I had everything but a deer whistle on there, so I got one of those, too.”

Want to check out the innovative, yet raw, sounds of Patrick “Patson” Richardson for yourself? Visit his official Facebook page by clicking here or click here to read an in-depth interview with him via the Sugg Street Post. You can also listen to some of Patson's music right now by clicking the ReverbNation player attached below this article.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jeff Harp/Luke Short

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  • Published in Music

Area Musicians Unite to Support Family–Photos and Words

HOPKINSVILLE, KY (1/30/13)—On Sunday, January 27th, over 20 area performers and bands—19 of which played onstage—as well as many caring volunteers, came together at Hopkinsville’s historic Princess Theatre to help raise funds for the family of the late Anthony Burton.

As became apparent while attending the event, the support area musicians and unpaid organizers were able to offer the worthy cause, on a Sunday no less, was overwhelming—and truthfully, quite moving. In an age when face-to-face communication is waning and digitized music dominates the worldwide scene, it was inspiring to see so many people performing back-to-back live sets while working hand-in-hand toward a common, benevolent goal.

And the teamwork ultimately paid off in full.

Hundreds of area residents showed up throughout the day-long benefit and donated a generous, collective sum of $2,000 for Anthony Burton’s family.

Anthony Burton’s grandfather, Quick Fire band member, and “Jamming for Anthony” co-organizer, Mike Braswell—who performed on guitar alongside singer Misti Long Wagner at the onset of the benefit concert—says that the cooperation he witnessed during the event was a direct reflection of how powerful the area music scene can be.

“We are all a tight community when it comes to working with each other, and it was so nice to have all the performers and volunteers come to my need without a question. And I would have done the same for them,” says Braswell. “The people that came out and helped really are beyond compare, though. I loved all the support and it turned out to be an awesome experience.”

Echoing this sentiment, fellow organizer and longtime musician, Mike Thomas, offers up his own take on the success of the concert.

“I was just proud to be a part of it. I was blown away by the support our local musicians provided. They not only lent their talent to the event, they also lent their names, which attracted a lot of people. They posted and reposted the event link on their websites and Facebook pages; they shared their gear; they donated money; and my favorite one, they did not complain. They just got up and did their thing,” explains Thomas. “We musicians are a picky bunch when it comes to our ‘sound,’ and although the stage sound was far from perfect, everyone just pressed on. I had the privilege of hearing every band and was not disappointed by a single act.”

What’s more, Thomas points out that hosting the event on a Sunday yielded a rather unique overall show.

“Some of the coolest aspects of this whole thing was that it was held on a Sunday, there was no alcohol involved, and a lot of the band members were able to bring their kids, which is something many of them rarely get to experience,” says Thomas. “Seeing kids digging on their mom or dad’s music was truly awesome. At one point, Anthony’s little sister was even dancing on the food bar—what a sight that was! There was such joy coming from such a tragedy, and that is the beauty of what we are able to do as musicians.”

A lineup honoring all the bands and performers that offered up their musical talents at the show is as follows: Misti Long Wagner (featuring Mike Braswell); the School of Hard Knocks (formed by Sam Brown, Scott Stevens, Chris Utterback, and Mike Utterback just for the benefit show); Pat Ballard featuring Johnny Keyz and Mollie Garrigan; the Mission of Love Trio (Dave Elliott, Brian Sidebottom, Sherry Barnes); The Cold Stares (Chris Tapp and Brian Mullins); Ray Ligon; Junk Munky (John Valentine, David Stevens, Larry Shewey, and Keith Porter); Patrick “Patson” Richardson; JT Oglesby; the Alonzo Pennington Band (Alonzo Pennington, LJ Granstaff, and Andy Torian); Steppin Stone (Steve Ruby, Jeremy Winstead, Andy McChesney, and James Painter); the Mason Dixon Band (Rickie Ford, Bob Ford, Tracy Hardison, and Bryan Powell); Pillar of Fire (Richie Ford, Allan Black, Matt Sisk, and Travis Franklin); Set In Stone (Aaron Patrick, Michael Piper, Cortland Moore, and David Martin); the Hollywood Gutter Rats (Jon Gilbert, Brian Higgs, and Derrick Sorrells); Junction 41 (John Thompson, Larry and LJ Granstaff, Cody Kirby, and David Bowles); Redneck Riot (Mitch Dupree, Mike Thomas, David Bowles, and Cody Kirby); Falter (Brad Wilson, Adam O’Rear, Kevin Offutt, John Pierce, and Bryan Thomas); and Livewire (Steve Robinson, Louis Duke, Bryan Powell, and John Hancock).

The PA system used during the benefit was donated by musicians Rickie and Bob Ford, while the bass guitar rig was provided by Tracy Hardison. Additionally, Keneuk Helton, who was unable to play, donated his intricate drum kit, which was used throughout the show.

Outside of musicians, the benefit received help from a variety of volunteers as well, including members of the Christian County Air Force ROTC, which were encouraged to pitch-in by Stan and Veronica Widmer. Thomas notes that both Stan and Veronica also helped to grill food in the rain throughout the entire event.

And while the event has come and gone, there are still several ways to show your support for the Burton family during this difficult time. If you’d like to donate, you can visit the official “Jamming for Anthony” site by clicking here. You may also send checks to Anthony’s father, Tim Burton, at the following address:

Tim Burton
320 Grand Orchard Dr.
Hopkinsville, KY 42240

For more information, please contact Mike Braswell via Facebook or by phone at (270) 484-6937. You may also view a previous Sugg Street Post article about Anthony Burton and the benefit concert by clicking here.

Additional photos taken during the event—which feature The Cold Stares, Patson, JT Oglesby, Pat Ballard (featuring Johnny Keyz and Mollie Garrigan), Ray Ligon, the Mission of Love Trio, Junk Munky, Mike Braswell (with family), Brian Greer of Fighting Fate, and some unique sights at the Princess Theatre—are attached below.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Luke Short

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Gear Guide: Mollie Garrigan’s ‘Exotic’ Taylor 410-K

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (1/28/13)—Good music is born from a musician’s experiences, feelings, or ideas. Yet, without the proper instrument, attaining the desired expression and personality of a song can be difficult or nearly impossible. Fortunately, modern musicians have a plethora of finely tuned options at their disposal. From variations in tonewoods, string gauge, and speaker construction, to the customization of electronic pickups, drum heads, microphones, and beyond, contemporary players have the ability to dial in exactly what they want or need to get their “dream tone.”

But, on the flip side, figuring out the differences between each of these options can become a major, and often times confusing, learning process. That’s the beauty of it, though—it takes time to age into a fine musician.

So, instead of trying to lay everything out on the proverbial table, the Sugg Street Post would like to bring you periodic information about the instruments area musicians use to get the sound you hear live or on their records. Enter: The Gear Guide.

For this installment of The Gear Guide, we would like to bring you a closer look at Mollie Garrigan’s slightly modded, limited edition Taylor 410-Koa acoustic/electric guitar.

A refined, yet strikingly powerful vocal style defines much of Mollie Garrigan’s soulful, blues-laden performances. And while she could easily stand alone on the stage and wow audiences, the warm, lush accompaniment she creates with her “exotic” Taylor acoustic/electric adds an entirely new and welcome dimension to her talents. From more traditional chord progressions, to mid-ranged modern blues, country, and rock sounds, Mollie’s unique guitar tone cuts through the room while remaining rounded and full.

Beyond her personal strumming dynamics and choice of notes, though, what makes Mollie’s guitar sound so interesting? Read on.

Limited Edition Taylor 410-Koa Acoustic/Electric

Body Wood/Design—Dreadnought style body; solid Spruce top; Hawaiian Koa back and sides
Neck Wood—Hawaiian Koa; rosewood fretboard
Neck Shape/Style—Rounded profile with gloss finish
Finish—Natural top with dark stain on back and sides
Pickup—Adjustable aftermarket Fishman pickup (installed in soundhole); endpin output jack
Tuners—Standard Taylor tuners
Bridge/Tailpiece—Rosewood bridge with bone saddle

Mollie uses medium gauge acoustic strings. Though she isn’t particular about a specific brand, she has tried strings from D’Addario, Ernie Ball, and Elixir on several occasions. Previously—when her guitar’s action or string height was higher—she employed light gauge strings.

“After I lowered the action, I started using medium gauge strings,” says Mollie. “The combination of the two delivers the sound and feel I like.”

But how does Mollie amplify her acoustic/electric for live shows?

“The Fishman pickup I had installed after I got the guitar is excellent as far as volume for larger venues goes, but it’s best to use a soundhole cover for frequency control,” explains Mollie. “The guitar has a rich tone with a heavy low-end. The EQ has to be adjusted in order to prevent feedback. It sounds best to me unplugged in a living room, though. The sound cuts through a room gently, yet can still be heard. To me, it is a perfect accompaniment for a voice.”

While the sound of Mollie’s instrument is quite intriguing, the story of how she obtained it is equally unique.

“As far as I can remember I got the guitar in 1997. I found it at a small store in Birmingham, Alabama, called Fretted Instruments,” says Mollie. “The gentleman who owns the store, Herb Trotman, is a bluegrass musician and is very passionate about the instruments he sells. He makes you feel like you are adding a member to your family. It was a gift from my parents for college graduation/birthday/Christmas for that year. That means it's going on 16 years old. Wow. I feel old [laughs].”

Out of all the instruments there are to choose from today, Mollie says her guitar’s sound and playability—and the tone of Taylor guitars in general—fits her approach to composing and performing perfectly.

“I am not a very aggressive guitar player. My music is contemplative and sweet—and sappy if you want to know the truth. That is why I like Taylor guitars for my style,” explains Mollie. “The sound they deliver is warm, round, full, and soft. Even playing it hard cannot tune out the warmth of the instrument. I have never grown accustomed to using a pick either. That works well with this guitar. There are several other brands I have played and really enjoyed—such as Martin, Alvarez, and Gibson—but for the songs I sing and the way I play, my Taylor guitar is just right. As long as I have just one guitar, this one suits me great.”

Yet, beyond the powerfully mellow sound and rarity of the exotic Taylor, Mollie explains that there is an even deeper sentimental value the guitar holds.

“My guitar is my favorite possession. It speaks to all of my senses,” says Mollie. “It is beautiful to look at; it’s soothing, comforting, and melancholy to hear, and fragrant to smell when I take it out of its case. To touch the smoothness of the body is a wonderful sensation, and the shape of it fits me just right. Maybe it doesn't appeal to my sense of taste [laughs], but you know what I mean. My Taylor serves as a sort of gallery of memories for me, too. It reminds me of relationships that have come and gone, and I can't even remember the number of apartments or road trips or vacations this guitar has seen. Some of my most significant memories are attached to this masterfully shaped, exotic, wooden creation.”

As a result of its lengthier life, the guitar also displays a lot of character. And while an unfortunate accident left the instrument with several substantial “war wounds,” Mollie was able to locate a knowledgeable luthier who performed several vital repairs at a reasonable price.

“On my way to a show one night, I tripped, and because the guitar was in a soft case, it broke into two pieces. The body and neck were completely severed. The back of the body was also cracked almost its full length,” says Mollie of the fateful incident. “I went back and forth, debating on whether I’d wanted to fix it or just use it for decoration. The first estimate I was given was more than I could afford, but thanks to a few good men it ended up being repaired for 75 dollars. It is by no means restored to its original form, but I have always appreciated scars. I am a 'story' girl. I like to see with my eyes where people—and instruments, apparently—have been. If I were able to carry one inanimate possession out of a burning home or building, my Taylor would be it.”

Want to check out Taylor Guitars for yourself? For more info, check out their official site by clicking here.

To learn more about Mollie Garrigan’s life and music, click here.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photo by Jeff Harp

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  • Published in Music

Country Strong - More Than a Name

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (12/28/12) – It’s no surprise that Murray, Kentucky-based metal band, Country Strong, has been turning heads all across western Kentucky over the last year-and-a-half. The reason? Their weighty, fast-paced sound rips you out from the inside and leaves you wanting more.

One thing that sets them apart from the rest is their moniker. While the name Country Strong might conjure up visions of a country music group twanging away in a honky tonk, the second you see the band live, or hear their music, that image quickly disappears, and you're left facing a wall of heavy-hitting, all out metal.

And the music is what it's all about for the band. The powerful drumbeats, intricate guitar riffs, dark bass licks, and intense vocals quickly get your head banging in time. The energy that this group emits from the stage during a performance is a commanding force to be reckoned with. Although the group only plays original songs, they treated a 70-plus person audience at Elite Tattoo Lounge to a Backstreet Boys cover that turned the house upside down. Who would have thought that “I Want it That Way” would have ever sounded so severely epic?

The Sugg Street Post sat down and talked with the group after the aforementioned performance at Elite Tattoo Lounge in Madisonville, Kentucky on December 22nd. The results are as follows.


Luke – So, what’s everybody’s name, and what do you each bring to Country Strong?

Jantzen – I’m Jantzen Litchfield, vocals.

Craig – I’m Craig Rogers and I play rhythm guitar.

Luke – How do you spell your name?

Jantzen – G – A – Y. [everyone laughs]

Brett – I’m Brett Bellmyer and I play drums.

Michael – I’m Michael Lowe, but you already know me. I play bass.

Andy – I’m Andy Hicks and I play guitar, sort of.

Jess – Michael, the real question is, do you always play bass with your shoes off?

Michael – Most of the time. [everyone laughs]

Luke – How long have you guys been playing together?

Jantzen – Close to a year-and-a-half now.

Luke – Where are you guys from?

Jantzen – Andy, Craig, and I are from Murray, Kentucky.

Brett – I’m from Houston, Texas.

Michael – I was born in Detroit, Michigan, but I lived in Madisonville for awhile.

Luke – How’d you guys all get together?

Jantzen – Well, I played in a different band with some other guys. Andy and Brett played in another band, and we played a lot of shows together.

Andy – Brett and Craig were in a band before me and Brett actually. I was like their roadie, so that’s how I knew them. Eventually, they actually let me start playing with them, because I’d been carrying all their stuff for so long. [everyone laughs]

Jantzen – Actually, in our old band, Andy used to message us telling us he’d play bass for us, but we didn’t like him. [everyone laughs] He wasn’t good, so we weren’t going to let him play with us. But then, both bands split up. These guys were trying to get something going, and they needed a vocalist. I used to play drums, but I wanted to try vocals, so I gave them a call.

Luke – So, are you all students at Murray State University?

Brett – I am.

Michael – I am.

Andy – I’m enrolled. [everyone laughs] I took the ACT, passed it, got enrolled, and didn’t do my FAFSA in time.

Jess – What are you guys studying?

Michael – I’m a philosophy major.

Brett – Journalism.

Andy – I was just going to take all the basic courses, like math and stuff, get it over with, hate my life for a year, get past it, and then decide what the hell I’m going to do.

Luke – So, why the name Country Strong? The first time I heard the name I assumed you all played country music, until I listened to it.

Jantzen – It actually started out as a joke. We were trying to think of a band name, and Andy texted me…

Andy – Pure Country! [laughs]

Jantzen – It went about 15 different ways. Andy texted me Country Strong and I laughed about it. We all laughed, actually.

Andy – We actually came up with it before Craig was in. After he was in, he threw out the ideas Cooking With Fire, or Sh***in’ and Gettin’. [everyone laughs] Those were his band name choices. So anyways, we went with Country Strong.

Jantzen – I thought it’d be funny, and then I thought more about it. We don’t want people to think of our music as what it is. We want you to hear it and respect it, not because of the name. People have got awesome names, like "I Wrestled a Bear Once," and they suck terribly. [everyone laughs]

Michael – But their name is awesome!

Jantzen – Yea, it makes me want to see them just because of their name!


Luke – So, you want to be good because you play good music, right?

Jantzen – Yeah.

Andy – A lot of the time, we’ll catch people off-guard. They come to see us because they think we are going to be a country band, and then they like us anyway, so boom, the name just worked.

Luke – It’s almost a joke, the irony of it.

Jantzen – And then, we won this contest, and we went down to Mississippi and recorded a CD. We were supposed to have won $15,000 worth of recording time. Well, we went through a lot of crap, and in the end we got screwed over. Seriously though, it made us way stronger as a band.

Jess – How many rounds did you go through at the competition?

Brett – Three.

Jantzen – The competition was an "emerging artist’s" challenge at the Big Apple [Café] in Murray. We were the only metal band there. We did it just for a show, thinking it would be a joke; we thought that we’d lose the first round. We were all so trashed for that first round, too. [everyone laughs]

Andy – I got unbelievable wasted.

Jantzen – We won the first round; we just blew it away. They got us back for the second round. We won the second round, too. For the third round, we played against all the winners and runners-up from each of the 16 weeks of the competition. For the first two rounds, the winning bands were determined by how many poker chips you had. They gave everybody a poker chip. The more drinks you bought, the more poker chips you got. You got one poker chip per drink.

Andy – So whoever friggin’ drinks the most wins. [everyone laughs]

Jantzen – Yea, that was the first two rounds. They actually had judges for the third round. Murray is not a metal scene by any means, so we had no intents of winning at all. What we did do is put on a show.

Brett – We had the biggest crowd. People were screaming. It was awesome.

Luke – Tell us about the new recording?

Jantzen – We went back to the guy who recorded our demos, Jason Schaffstein, who's with All Audio Recording Production in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Usually he charges us $200 a song, but he heard about what we went through in Mississippi, so he only charged us $100 a song. The studio is in his house.

Andy – We recorded all the drums in one day, all the guitar and bass in one day, went down there one more time, and did all the vocals in one day.

Jantzen – It took us three days to get two songs drum tracked in Mississippi. It took us one day to drum track all ten songs with this other guy.


Jess – Where do you guys usually rehearse?

Jantzen – We practice at my mom’s house.

Jess – Do you get any flack from the neighbors?

Jantzen – No. Actually, we have a couple times, but that was a long time ago. I was in a punk band and we’d play in the front yard just to see if we could get the cops called on us.

Luke – I could hear some punk in there man, some Pennywise influence maybe.

Jantzen – That’s what we listen to.

Jess – What genre do you consider yourself?

Jantzen – We argue about this at practice. [laughs] It’s not an argument between us, but about what other people label us as.

Andy – People always call us metalcore.

Jantzen – Yeah, but we’re not metalcore.

Brett – We all listen to different stuff, so we’re a unique genre. We’re influenced by hardcore, metalcore, punk, post-hardcore, whatever.

Jantzen – Hundredth is my favorite band.

Jess – What about you, Mister Quiet? [everyone laughs] What are your musical influences? Are you always this quiet?

Jantzen – Craig is like Meg, from [the animated seriesFamily Guy.

Andy – He’s just kind of here. [laughs]

Craig – My influences are death metal, some black metal, and a lot of stuff that most people won’t get into, because it scares them away, but I understand it.

Luke – Like some Venom and stuff?

Craig – Yea, something like that.


Jess – What are your favorite bands?

Craig – Dimmu Borgir is my favorite. I like Enslaved too.

Jantzen – Britney Spears. [everyone laughs]

Jess – Well, somebody likes the Backstreet Boys. [everyone laughs]

Luke – Yeah, that question is coming here in a second.

Jess – Talk about improving a song. [laughs]

Jantzen – I listen to stuff from the 90s, but there is a huge range that I like. I try to keep my genres open. I don’t like to judge music because of the category it falls in.

Brett – My favorite band of all time is Incubus. I like 311, Mars Volta, At the Drive-in, Modest Mouse, post-hardcore, all kinds of stuff. Anything really, not metal though, I don’t really do a lot of metal.

Luke – Have you heard One Day as a Lion? It’s the former drummer from Mars Volta and Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine.

Michael – Yea, they’re badass!

Brett – Have you heard of As Tall as Lions? They are fantastic!

Jess – What are your musical influences, Michael?

Michael – Lots. Everything influences me, basically. I’d say my bass ones would be Glassjaw, The Beatles, The Chariot, and the Deftones.

Craig - He listens to dubstep. [everyone laughs]

Mike – No, and I don’t like hip-hop or country.

Andy – I think dubstep is the stupidest thing ever; it’s techno.


Luke
– What about you, Andy?

Andy – Cher.

Jantzen – You would listen to Cher.

Andy – Just her face, not her music. [everyone laughs] It inspires me. No, my favorite band of all time is As I Lay Dying. They are my favorite band mostly because they haven’t ever changed. They maintain their sound.

Jess – What do you want to do with your music?

Luke – Yeah, what are your goals?

Jantzen – Everybody wants to “make it big”. My point of view is that you can’t expect to make it, so what I want to do with my music, as far as lyrics goes, is just get people interested in our genre. Not a lot of people are big fans of it. It’s never been a catchy trend. With my lyrics, I just want to, I don’t know, change the world. I mean, we’re not The Beatles.

Michael - We’re not trying to write mean stuff like "f*** your mom" or anything. [laughs] Usually, metal is scary, devils words, and stuff.

Jantzen – We just want people to know that we’re real guys. We go out and party, we drink and have a good time.

Jess – Jantzen, why is art via music important to you as an individual?

Jantzen – Music just gets me away from a lot of things. I never had the easiest life. I didn’t get everything handed to me. If I can do something to make people happy, then that makes me happy. There is no better feeling than being on stage. We all hate practice. You have to go to practice, though. It’s something that has to be done, but once you get on stage it’s the greatest feeling in the world. You can’t compare it to anything, not even the first time you have sex. It’s impossible. It’s better than that. If there is energy in the crowd, I probably won’t be able to move my neck the next day. My neck hurts already. [laughs] But if there is energy, it pumps us up because we know we’re making these people happy. To me, there’s no greater feeling then just to make somebody else happy for 30 minutes, and to enjoy some good music. I mean, a lot of people might not like us, but then they respect us because of the point of view we try to make. If we got our point of view across, maybe we can help something. [laughs]

Jess – Why is art via music important to the community at large? Why is it important to all the people in Murray, to all the people in Hopkins County?

Jantzen – In Murray, our hometown, there is not a whole lot to do. I’m not a big country fan, but people play country in bars, and I appreciate that because they are making people happy. I think, and this probably sounds like a Beatles quote or something, but music could change the world if everybody would just pay attention. Even Mennonites like music. I know a couple Mennonites that break some houses, and I know they listen to music.

Brett – And they only listen to Primus. [everybody laughs]

Jantzen - Music is the only thing that everybody in the world loves. There is a genre of music for everyone.

Luke – It goes beyond language, in a way.

Jeff – Do you guys get out and support other bands?

Brett – Oh yeah, we go to local shows that we’re not playing at all the time to support other bands.

Jess – It’s important to do that kind of stuff. People need that feedback.

Jantzen – The guys that played before us tonight play a genre I’m not necessarily into, but you know what, I’ll stand up there and clap. They are a tight group. They are great musicians. I’ll stand in front of almost every show we play, with every band, and support them. I’m not starting a mosh pit for them, but I like to clap to support people because I know the feeling that I get when I see people in the crowd enjoying themselves.


Jess – Mister Quiet, why is art via music important to you, as an individual?

Craig – I think music has more power to it than people realize a lot of the time. Like, if you are going through something, sometimes all it takes is to turn on just the right song. It can completely change your mood and bring you back to normal.

Andy - Limp Bizkit. [everyone laughs]

Jantzen – Hell yeah. [laughs]

Jeff – Dude, it is crazy that you just said that. I just said that exact same thing to Luke about an hour ago. [everyone laughs]

Craig – I don’t know, there is just something to it.

Andy - If you can windmill to it, Craig’s into it. [everyone laughs]

Craig – Exactly.

Jess – Why is it important to the community?

Craig – As far as live music goes, people get together at these places, and I think it kind of bonds everyone together.

Jantzen – I know for a fact it does, because we played at The Apple [Cafe], which isn't a metal venue in a metal town, and there were people cheering for us that we would have never thought would.

Andy – There was well over a hundred people there.

Jantzen - It brings a lot of people together. There were acoustic bands playing, us, rappers, and everybody was having a good time. This guy might like rap, this other guy metal, but they were all into it.

Brett – It was actually the only show we ever played where people moshed.

Jess – It’s hard to get people to mosh at a show!

Brett – It’s a retirement community man.

Andy – People were getting drunk enough to throw down I guess.

Jess – How about you Brett? Why is art via music important?

Brett – Number one, it keeps me out of trouble. [everyone laughs]

Mike – Yeah. [laughs]

Brett - Number two, drumming is my life. I’m all about reaching our full potential and seeing what all we can do, and how far we can go. Winning that competition, that just opens up a whole lot more possibilities.

Jantzen – He goes to school. [everyone laughs]

Jess – Why is it important to the community, art via music?

Brett – Music brings people together. A lot of kids that listen to metal are troublemakers a lot of the time. When we play live for them, no matter where we go, we try to reach out to them. Jantzen brought the positive vibe and we all go with it. But when these kids come out to shows, they could be out doing other stuff, but we’re keeping them out of trouble as well. If we can get a music scene going to where everybody isn’t going to talk crap about each other, and be strong, and be friends, then that would keep…

Andy – A family, instead of a competition.

Jess – Exactly, as it should be.

Brett – I mean, that’s it.

Jess – How about you Michael? Why is music an important art form to you?

Michael – It’s expression. It's being able to vent in a positive way. There are so many negative ways you can let out your energy. I have a lot of discontent for what’s going on in our society, and the best way to do it, besides getting into trouble, as Brett said, or beating people up, or all these other redneck things, you can play music. It helps to get rid of your anger. When we play places, I won’t be angry for weeks. But when we haven’t played in awhile, it’s like I haven’t had sex in days. What is going on? What is going on? [everyone laughs] It’s just a positive way to vent. It’s good for the community, because it brings people together. We hang out with a lot of different people, and a lot of people have supported us that I never thought would have supported us.

Jantzen – Yeah, we have met a lot of awesome, really nice people.

Jess – How about you, Andy? Why is it important to you?

Andy – I just like to move it, move it, you know? [everyone laughs]

Jantzen – He’s a liar. [everyone laughs] Don’t listen to anything he says.

Andy – Kind of like Mike said, it’s just a creative outlet in which I can be positive and not get pissed. If I’d never learned to play music, I would probably rage and break stuff all the time. The funny thing is, I never would have started playing the guitar if it wasn’t for Craig. He got a guitar and he lived up the road from me. I just thought it was so cool that he had a guitar.

Craig – Yeah, we were neighbors for 13 years.

Jantzen – They slept in the same bed for, like, ever. [everyone laughs] They’d sing lullabies to each other.

Luke – It’s important to the bonding process, man.

Andy – Growing up, I always looked up to Craig and Brett.

Michael – I’m brand new to the situation.

Jantzen – That’s another awesome thing, we met Mike through music.


Jess – How did you guys meet him?

Michael – I was looking for work. I was looking to be involved in something that was just energetic, like punk, whatever. Then I ran into these guys.

Andy – What’s funny about that is my brother lived around the corner from him. He told me he hears these guys playing all the time. So we decided to go check them out. So we went and we checked out what they were playing, and then they let us play.

Michael – I was in, yeah. [everyone laughs] I’m down, see you next week. [laughs]

Jantzen – One of the hardest things in the world, and I don’t know about anywhere else, but in Murray, KY, you can’t find bass players. A million people play guitar, a million people play drums, and I'm not saying their all good, but there are no bass players. Mike came in and he’s like, “I can learn that easy,” and he’s good at it. It wasn’t a hard decision. He was in.

Jess – You guys seem to really mesh well together. It’s hard to find people sometimes that do mesh in a band-type situation.

Jantzen – We make fun of Craig a lot. [everyone laughs]

Brett – Craig is pretty much the whipping boy.

Andy - He’s the black sheep, you know? We just try to ignore him because he’s the black metal kid.

Jantzen – We like to rip on each other and have a good time.

Luke – So when will your new album be coming out?
 
Jantzen – It should be out by the first of the year.

Luke – Do you have a name for it?

Jantzen – We haven’t come up with a name for it yet. We’re working on that. There are 10 original songs, and there is an intro.

Andy – Well, and the Backstreet Boys cover, but… [everyone laughs]

Jantzen – Yeah, the Backstreet Boys cover.

Jess – Yeah, how did that come about?

Andy – Jantzen threw that idea out there.

Jantzen – I was the drummer in the past three bands I’ve been in. I wanted to cover famous songs, but I don’t like doing the same ones that every other band does. I’ve always been into the '90s stuff, and I heard the Backstreet Boys and thought, “That’s a good one.” I asked the band about doing it, and they were down.

Jess – How old are you guys?

Jantzen – 25.

Craig – 24.

Brett – 24.

Michael – 28.

Andy – I’m 73. [everyone laughs]


Jess – Do you guys have a Facebook page?

Brett – We have Facebook, ReverbNation, and YouTube.

Jess – How do you guys think the show went tonight?

Jantzen – It was fun.

Andy – I missed a few notes. [laughs] I knocked Jantzen over.

Jantzen – I ran into Andy and then hit the drums.

Andy – At the very end, I forgot the lyrics to one of the songs and I was like, ugh.

Jess – You’re supposed to say, “It was epic, and awesome. We did fabulous.” [laughs]

Andy – It was!

Jantzen – We had fun. We know when we mess up because we’ve played these songs a million times at practice.

Andy – Oh yea, I’m not afraid to admit when I mess up. I like criticism.

Jantzen – We criticize each other.

Andy – I want it to be as good as it can be. I don’t like bands that don’t sound as good as they do on their CD live.

Jess – Do you all have any shows coming up in the near future?

Craig – There actually is a show we’ve been thinking about doing.

Andy – One of our really good friends passed away. He used to play shows with us. We want to do a memorial show because he was a big part of the scene.

Jantzen – Yeah, his name was Thomas Smotherman.

Jess – How old was he?

Jantzen - He was 27.

Jess – Why did he pass away?

Jantzen – They didn’t know what caused it.

Andy – He died in his sleep.

Michael – He fell asleep and never woke up.

Jantzen – His little brother died seven or eight years ago in the same way. He fell asleep and never woke up. His mom only had two kids and she’s had to bury them both. I gave her an old band shirt from when we played in a band together. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, giving her that shirt. I’ll write a song for him, definitely.

Michael – We were thinking about doing that and maybe dedicating the album to him.

Luke – How many original songs do you guys have?

Jantzen – They are all original. Except the Backstreet Boys song, which is obviously not original.

Brett – We rewrote the Backstreet Boys song, so technically that is also original. [laughs]

Andy – I wrote all the guitar parts to that.

Jantzen – The lyrics are obviously the same but that’s it. I don’t foresee Nick Lachey doing any screaming over it.

Brett – Nick Lachey, he’s not even in the Backstreet Boys!

Jantzen – Wait, he’s from 98 Degrees, isn’t he? There is a Nick in that band isn’t there?

Michael – There is always a Nick in these bands!

Brett – Nick Carter.

Luke – Jess used to be a fan of the Backstreet Boys. [laughs]

Jess – Busting me out, huh? I even saw them in concert.

Brett – I was a fan too, when I was like nine.

Jantzen – I knew there was a Nick in there somewhere.

Luke – I like the Spice Girls.

Jantzen – Yes!

Brett – Andy and I saw Nickleback back in the day.

Andy - When they used to be good.

Brett - Before anybody knew who they were, they were actually a decent alternate rock band. 

Luke – It’s radio rock today.


Jess – If you do the tribute concert for your friend, what are the plans for that?

Jantzen – We’d probably do it in Murray. The other band that he played in, we’re really good friends with those guys. It would be a great thing to do a show together. The only thing I can think is just to make money and raise it for his mom. I just can’t imagine what she’s going through. The younger one had a heart disease or something, fell asleep, and just never woke back up. Thomas, they never figured out what happened.

Brett – It makes me think of Nightmare on Elm Street dude.

Jantzen – One of my real good friends hasn’t been able to sleep in like three days. He’s afraid to go to sleep now.

Luke – Hasn’t been able to sleep in three days? Dude, if you make it through four days, you are supposedly clinically insane.

Jantzen – He is insane! [laughs] That’s the problem.

Jess – Luke is doing this “Gear Guide” thing for Sugg Street Post. Would you all be interested in doing something like that?

Luke – Yea, we should do that sometimes. The “Gear Guide” focuses on the instruments, specs, and stuff like that.

Brett – Yeah, definitely.

Jantzen – You’ll want to get my “guns” in there. [everyone laughs] You’ll want to get this in there too. I have a tattoo on my arm, a hotdog that says, “Smile, you’ve got French’s.”

Luke –That’s awesome! [laughs]

Jantzen – That was my second tattoo ever. Yeah, I’ve got a better one than that. BAM! It’s a bottle of Surge.

Jess – Surge? Shut up dude! [laughs]

Luke – Yellow 5 man! [everyone laughs] Do you all have a favorite show that you’ve played?

Brett – Madison Square Garden. [everyone laughs] No, this was one of the best shows we’ve played, believe it or not.

Jantzen – Yeah.

Jess – We hope you all will come back!

Michael – We definitely will!

Jess – How did you guys get hooked up with the Elite Tattoo Lounge show tonight?

Michael – My dad is good friends, basically family, with Keith, that owns the custom wheel shop next door. I guess he owns this building, too. He said he’d check next door for us because he knew that Chappy was looking for some bands. I came over here and talked to Colton [Williams] and pretty much worked it out from there.

Jess – Is there anything else you guys can think of that you’d like for us to include?

Jantzen – Andy is gay. He likes men.

Brett – He admitted that at midnight on December 21st.

Jantzen – Yeah, because he thought the world was ending. [everyone laughs]

Michael – So, 24 hours ago.

Brett – He was like, “Craig, I’ve been in love with you for so long.” [everyone laughs]

Michael – That’s why Craig has long hair.

Jess – Craig’s got great hair.

Jantzen – Yeah, he knows. He gets all the ladies.

Craig – Garnier Fructis.

Luke – Hey, Suave dude.

Brett – Dude, my hair used to be past my shoulders. I’m growing it back.

Jantzen – I used to do the long, swoop thing. I had the longest rat tail in history. It almost touched my butt.

Luke – I had a mullet in 5th grade. I was like, “Billy Ray Cyrus, yeah!” [everyone laughs]

Jantzen – My hair grew in a natural rat tail. I’m naturally white trash.

Michael – If we ever go on tour, I’ll rock a mullet.

To check out more from Country Strong, visit their official Facebook page or check out the ReverbNation player attached below.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey and Luke Short
Photos by Jeff Harp

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