Displaying items by tag: band

  • Published in Music

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…

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


The Shed


HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (5/9/13) - For some, writing is a way of life. For Madisonville resident Mike Barton, it’s also a part-time job and a leisurely love affair. Along with authoring five insightfully written business books, which includes Recognition at WorkBuilding a Fundamentally Sound Corporate Compliance Program, and Incentive Pay: Creating a Competitive Advantage, as well as numerous published articles and short pieces, Mike holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Evansville. And while Mike’s in-depth sense of business know-how has led him to employment as a teacher/professor, an HR Administrator with Baptist Health Madisonville, and a talented lecturer, he says that he simply loves to write. Period. In turn, the Sugg Street Post recently got in touch with Mike and found that he was interested in submitting some of his works to our website. Of course, we were happy to oblige.

So, without further ado, we would like to present the reader with Mike Barton’s second perceptive contribution: “The Shed”. 

The tiny shed was tucked away between two gigantic sycamore trees. It was adorned with tan siding and a well-cured roof. The doors on the structure needed to be replaced. In fact, on a sunny day, the holes in the door converted the shed into a toaster oven. Inside, there were four electrical outlets, an ancient refrigerator, and a fluorescent light that dangled from the ceiling. The shed had been used to store garden equipment and various discarded items. However, it was never meant to be a garden shed. It would be the site of many wonderful memories for the family who occupied the adjoining house.

The family included a husband, wife, and two sons who were three years apart. The oldest son was the first to realize the value of the shed. He thought his destiny was to be a “major” rock star. He convinced his father to convert the shed into a makeshift studio for his rock band. He invested money in insulation that was placed strategically in the gaping holes inside structure. A few particle boards were placed on the walls to give the shed some degree of sophistication. On the particle boards, abstract drawings were made by the band and other visitors. Some of the artwork was a bit over-the-top. For example, “We Are the Best Rock Band in the World” was placed tactically on the three particle boards that were nailed to the walls. The band was named 2 Weak to Notice, which was also prominently displayed throughout the shed.

The first concert “rocked” the neighborhood. The band members invited friends and acquaintances to hear their songs. The parents and youngest son attended this concert and cheered along with the teenage audience. Near the end of the concert, the father was brought to tears with a rocking rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama”. The band announced that this song was for the father who allowed them to convert the shed into their personal “Abbey Road” studio. The concerts became a regular Friday occurrence over the next two years until the oldest son went off to college.

The youngest son was now ready to convert the shed into a “rocking” clubhouse. The shed would now become home to the “KORE”. The KORE was the official name for the friendship group comprised of five individuals including the youngest son. The KORE spent hours in the shed playing video games and practicing on their musical instruments. A window air-conditioner had now been installed so the summer heat radiated by the tattered doors of the shed would be bearable. The KORE would spend the night on old mattresses strewn in the shed. In fact, one of the group’s members stayed in the shed almost two weeks during the summer. He would come into the adjoining house to eat, shower, and use the bathroom. Other members of the KORE also stayed in the shed overnight because of the inviting atmosphere.

The youngest son soon formed his own band. This band, which was called Holden’s Rye, was soon practicing in the shed. The band’s name came from Salinger’s classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Maybe the band should have been called Lord of the Flies, because the shed was often plagued with bugs and an occasional nocturnal creature. The band’s practices permeated loud noises throughout the neighborhood. However, it seems the neighborhood welcomed those voices that sometimes sang off-key along with their loud guitars that often needed tuning. Like the band before, Friday concerts were a common happening. Neighbors would sometimes attend these concerts along with the youngest son’s parents. During this time, the oldest son would often return and jam with his younger sibling. The band played concerts in the area and even did one concert at Western Kentucky University.

The shed has now been converted back to a storage area for garden tools and unwanted items. However, the memories remain. The parents often visit the shed and recall the joy it brought to the family. The shed has weathered an ice storm and high winds. It has had a new roof installed as a result. The youngest son now works as a classic rock disc jockey in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He is now in a new band called The Fair-Weather Kings. The oldest son still enjoys listening and jamming with his brother. They have a love of music because of this little shed’s influence.

One only has to close their eyes and think of the eerie sounds that use to be emitted from this “rocking shack”. Some of those sounds included laughter, loud singing, and an occasional heated debate. The shed stands as a reminder of how one small outbuilding became the focal point for a family.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Mike Barton

  • Published in Music

Whiskey Angel - On a Mission to Save Clarksville

"credit" L. B. BlackCLARKSVILLE, TN (3/12/13) - It would be impossible to talk about Clarksville's music scene without mentioning Whiskey Angel.  

Round up the four most exciting shows each month and their name will probably be listed in the top three.  They've even been known to play two major venues in one night, closing out The Coup only to break down their equipment and set it up again down the road at The Warehouse.

You only have to see the four-piece once to understand why they get so much play.

"credit" L. B. Black

Cody Parson fronts the band with an intensity that makes it impossible to take a smoke break during one of their sets - he marches around the stage, swinging his hair around and engaging the crowd like he was closer to the end of the whiskey bottle backstage than the beginning.

But that looseness - either inspired by liquor or maybe, and probably more likely, a passion for his art - never compromises the music.

No matter how hard the ship gets rocked by Parson, it stays afloat with Ian Cargill on guitar, Mark Easterling on bass, and Cody Suits on drums.

Your eyes might be trained on Parson for most of the show, but if you look to the supporting cast you'll see that their musical prowess is half of what makes Whiskey Angel great.

"credit" L. B. Black
But Parson is a bit of a wonder to watch.

By the time you get 30 seconds into his stripped-down delivery of "Devil Song" you're left thinking he must be one of those frontmen that sling a guitar around his shoulder just to fit in - there's no way someone this good at writing and singing is going to be able to play.  

But then after dropping "... she said a woman kind is a devil's hand," with just a bass drum backing him, he's suddenly beating down into a guitar solo, slapping that idea that he's just a singer out of your head.

"credit" L. B. Black
And if Parson is more than just a singer, you could also say that Whiskey Angel contributes more than just music to Clarksvile.

They not only relentlessly perform in Clarksville - they regularly play at The Coup, The Warehouse, New South Coffee Company, Hookah 21, and most of the nerdHaus shows - but they personally go to the concerts that they're not performing at.

"That's what me and Ian really try and do, we try and make it every week," Parsons said between a double-header of performances this last Friday night.

"This scene has been really, really kind to us, and we've found a lot of people that have embraced what we do," Parson said.

It's rare to see the leading musicians of a scene so keen on supporting those bands still trying to get established. But Whiskey Angel is probably eager to support other bands because their band is a family affair itself.

"credit" L. B. Black
"There's a lot of personal history between us in this band, between me and Ian," Parson said.

"We share a little brother and we didn't see each other for years, and I wound up calling him and saying, 'Hey we should start a rock n roll band.' Everything went together the same way because there was kind of a magic in it," Parson said.

See that magic at the Wild Wild Fest April 12-14 in Adams, Tennessee, or just hang around Clarksville long enough - it won't take long to find a Whiskey Angel show.

Check out Whiskey Angel on Facebook and ReverbNation.

Editors Note: L.B. Black grew up in a place called Mukilteo, lives in Clarksville, and really wishes you would listen to more Modest Mouse.

Sugg Street Post
Written by L.B. Black
Photos by L.B. Black

  • Published in Music

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

  • Published in Music

Fighting Fate Everyday

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (1/21/13) – The Hopkins County music scene is expanding by leaps and bounds. As the scene develops and grows, local musicians continue to support each other. As a result, a fresh atmosphere open to all types of expression is being created. Whereas some artists may have shied away from our community in the past, this new and inviting sense of musical comradery is drawing in a variety of talented acts from all over the region.

Due to this ever-growing musical expansion, a newly reformed and renamed band recently took to the stage for the “first time” in Madisonville. Be that as it may, many members of this group have been rocking Hopkins County for several years. You might remember seeing them in the past as Too Far Gone or Bad Trip. So, while their latest project, Fighting Fate, is new, they’re no stranger to the local scene.

The Sugg Street Post had a chance to talk with Fighting Fate after a recent show at Elite Tattoo Lounge in Madisonville and found out what they are looking to do with their music in our area.

Jess – Well, why don’t you all introduce yourselves and fill me in on what role each of you take on in Fighting Fate.

Timmy – My name is Timmy Armstrong, and I play lead guitar and do some vocals.

Jonathan – I’m Jonathan Adamson. I'm the lead singer.

Carlos – My name is Carlos Hightower, and I play bass and do some backup vocals.

Brian – My name is Brian Greer. I pretty much just stand there and look good. [everyone laughs] I play a little guitar, too.

Taylor – I’m Taylor Sanders, and I am just filling in for a little while until these guys get a full-time drummer on board.

Jess – You guys just changed your name, is that right?

Timmy – Yeah, we just changed our name from Too Far Gone to Fighting Fate.

Luke – Are you guys all from Madisonville?

Brian – I am.

Taylor – Originally, yes.

Jonathan – I’m from Grove Center, Kentucky and I’ve lived in Sturgis, Kentucky for most of my life.

Carlos – I’m from the good ole’ U-S-of-A. Right here in Madisonville, born and raised.

Taylor – ‘MERICA! [everyone laughs]

Jess – How long have you all been together?

Timmy – We played together six years ago as Too Far Gone. We played as Too Far Gone for about two years or so. Sean Goodman and my brother, Jason Armstrong, were playing with us back then. Eventually, we just had a parting of ways. Before that, Carlos, Brian, Brad Brantley, and I had a band called Bad Trip. This is going way back to when Screams Go Silent and Too Weak to Notice were on the scene. So this has been awhile ago.

Brian – God, man, we were in Bad Trip in like 2001 or 2002.

Jess – That was awhile ago. You guys have been together for a minute.

Brian – Timmy used to be a big bully back when we were in middle school.

Timmy – I don’t remember that.

Brian – He was a bully. Then I learned he could play guitar so I started hanging out with him, even though he was a bully.

Carlos – I was always black. [everyone laughs] Just black.

Timmy – Actually, one of our first shows was at Kyle Yates’ house. Chad Florida had me up playing until like four o’clock in the morning. At that point, I was just playing by myself. Chad kept saying, “Play this! Play this! Play this!” I just kept pumping it out, so he just kept making requests.

Jess – What genre would you all consider your music?

Timmy – Man, I really don’t know. We are a really good mix of things. We covered a Johnny Cash song tonight.

Brian – We have our own rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues." We start out with the original style and then we rock into our version, which is a little heavier. It’s pretty cool.

Jess – How many of your songs are original compared to covers?

Timmy – Right now, we’re doing a lot more covers because we’ve only been playing together for like eight days.

Brian – Yeah, eight days as this band.

Jess – Eight days?

Taylor – We literally had four or five practices before the show tonight. This is our first show together.

Jess – What are some of the other covers you guys have been working on?

Timmy – We have been working on "For You" by Staind, "Killing in the Name" by Rage [Against the Machine], "The Red" by Chevelle, and some songs by Breaking Benjamin. We also do a few Deftones covers. We cover "Cold" by Evans Blue and "Cold" by Crossfades.

Brian - We do a lot of cold songs.

Jonathan – Yeah, you have to have a jacket on to listen to us. [everyone laughs]

Luke – What do you guys want to do with your music?

Timmy – We just want to play and have a good time. We want the audience to have a good time too. That’s what we’re all about. We play what everybody wants to hear.

Brian – If we were to play a show and someone said, “Hey, next time play this song,” we’ll do our best to learn that song and play it at the next show.

Jess – So, you mentioned earlier that this was your first show as a group?

Brian – Officially, yes.

Luke – How do you think it went?

Timmy – I think it went really well, but my brother messed up the entire sound system.

Carlos – I told you, sound.

Jess – What was the sound issue?

Timmy – He doesn’t know what he’s doing. [everyone laughs]

Jess – Taylor, why do you think that music is important?

Taylor – It’s important to me because I’ve played drums since I was 9-years-old. I’m 22 now. As lame as it sounds, my mom always said as soon as she got pregnant with a boy that she knew he was going to be the best drummer in the world. I know that sounds so lame. Have you guys ever seen the movie Hocus Pocus? There is this scene where that kid plays a drum set with a tie-dyed thing on it. The scene is like two seconds long. I saw that thing when I was four and I was like, “Mom! Drum set! Christmas! Yeah!” You know what I’m saying? [everyone laughs] It’s been a wicked ride since then.

Jess – Why is music important to the community at large?

Taylor – It brings people together. So many people have a foul opinion of this area simply because they don’t reap what’s actually in this town. I’ve lived in Nashville, and yeah it’s freakin’ dope, but there are things to do here. You know what I mean? I think music can bring people together to realize that.

Jess – Agreed.

Timmy – That actually runs into what I was going to say. As an individual, it is important to me because I like to tell stories based on reality. I don’t like to tell fictional stories. That would kind of sell the wrong thing. If you can’t talk about what you’ve lived through, then why say anything at all? A lot of the songs that we play are about stuff that we can actually relate to. As an individual, I’m not going to listen to something that I can’t relate to. I play stuff that I feel. It’s like Boscoe France when he’s playing his guitar. If he doesn’t feel it whenever he’s playing, he’s not going to play it. I’m kind of the same way.

Jess – Why do you think art is so important to our community?

Timmy – Actually, it’s for the same reason. Music tells stories. Whenever people hear a story that they can relate to, they realize that they are not the only ones going through certain situations in life. When you write a song, if it’s the right song, then it can steer people into a better direction. For instance, if someone is contemplating suicide and you’ve written a song that puts things in a positive light, then it might affect them in a positive way. If you save one person, then you’ve done your job.

Jess – How about you Jonathan?

Jonathan – Well, for me, I’m kind of an addict. As a singer, looking out into a crowd that is having a good time and hearing them sing a song that I’m singing, that’s just like a drug for me. I love that. It’s kind of like what Timmy was saying before. For us to be able to write about our everyday life, put something together, and for somebody else to like what we’re playing, for me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not just about having a good hook or melody in a song, but creating something that actually has some substance. That’s what we want to do with what we write and play.

Jess – Why do you think music is important to this community of people?

Jonathan – Hanging out in the community is one way I can connect. I used to go to Casa [Mexicana] all the time because I loved hearing music, no matter what band was playing. I think that if we get back to that point, people from young to old can enjoy music as a whole. We’re enjoying this concert right now. It’s peaceful. It’s a good time, and that’s what it’s all about. There is so much hate and negativity in the world right now. Music brings people together and it creates a positive vibe. That’s what this world needs.

Jess – Carlos, it’s your turn my friend.

Carlos – I’ve played lots of shows in my life. I’ve seen one thing across the board, and that’s family. You know what I mean? Even if we didn’t know the kid coming to see us play, his hatred for the world, the pain that he’s gone through, it all goes away whenever he’s there. You know what I mean? We can help you stand up and get over what you’re going through. It’s no longer the outside world. You become a part of the family. I think it’s better for the community because it brings people together. It really is a family. That’s the way people feel whenever they leave a show.

Jess – And that’s the way it should be.

Carlos - You might meet somebody that you’ve never met before, but they’re the coolest person ever. You might meet one of your best friends at a show.

Timmy – Music breaks down boundaries, is what it amounts to.

Jess – OK Brian, tell me a little bit about why music is important in your life.

Brian – Individually, what music means to me…

Timmy – …is onion rings. [everyone laughs]

Brian – No, onion rings give me gas and there’s a difference. As cliché as it sounds, music runs through my veins. Music is life. It’s everything to me. You can go as far back as my great-grandfather, who, believe it or not, was a barber in a barbershop quartet.

Jess – That’s cool!

Brian – Yes, and my grandfather played guitar and piano, and my father plays guitar. It’s in my blood. My whole family is all about music. Without music, life would be so boring. I mean, think about it. When you get in your car, what’s the first thing you do? You turn on the radio. When you go home, if there is nothing on TV, what do you do? Turn on the radio. If you didn’t have music, there would be such a huge void in your life. You would be bored. To me, music is life. Music makes everything.

Jess – What about the community? Why is it important to everybody in this community?

Brian – Music breathes life into your community. It brings people together. None of us would be here tonight if there wasn’t music. I’m going to break it down even smaller, too. Band mates–these guys here are my best friends. If they weren’t in a band with me, they’d be a buddy. When you’re in a band, your band mates are your best friends. You can count on them, no matter what. They’ve always got your back. If I mess up, I know that somebody else will fill in and cover me. It brings all of us together. Music is awesome. It’s everything.

Timmy – If more people would play music instead of politics, more people would get along.

Luke – How do you think the music scene could be improved in Madisonville?

Timmy – For one, they could stop with the liquor sales ending at midnight, because that pushes bands out of bars. We could play a lot more than what we do if the sales didn’t stop at 12.

Brian – I’ve read a lot of the stuff on the Sugg Street Post and you’ve always asked every band why they picked their name. You didn’t ask us why we picked our name yet.

Jess – Why did you all go with Fighting Fate?

Brian – I’m proud of where our name comes from. I’ve been in a band with four out of five of these guys at one point or another. As we said earlier, we kind of split up, went our separate ways, and lived different lives. We all parted ways but we keep coming back together for the music. It’s as if fate keeps trying to take us all in different directions. We are literally fighting our own fate to come back together to play music as a group. Carlos even became a gypsy and traveled the country.

Jess – Where all were you “gypsying” around Carlos? I’m curious.

Carlos – I was actually playing guitar for Roadrunner Records and Metalblade [Records].

Taylor – Two huge record labels, like massive.

Carlos – I got on the internet and talked to this guy who was scouting. I went on the road with four other guys. We wrote and sold songs to bands.

Luke – What were some of the bands you worked with?

Carlos – We did some work for As I Lay Dying, Daath, and others.

Jess – Where were the two companies based out of?

Carlos – They are based out of Altanta, Georgia. That’s where Daath got picked up by Roadrunner.

Jess – Which states did you travel through?

Carlos – I went from here, to Texas, to New Jersey. Jersey’s metal scene is totally different. We got to meet Shadows Fall on the road. They are really good. It’s amazing, because they are a big band, but they play smaller venues than what we played here today.

Jess – A lot of bands I’ve talked to prefer the smaller venues.

Timmy – I do.

Brian – I prefer them when playing and when listening. I don’t like going to Bridgestone [Arena in Nashville, TN]. You sit a mile away from the stage. I like a more personal experience.

Jess – You need that feedback from the audience, and when they’re in your face, you get it.

Luke – Is there anything else you all would like to say, or any shout outs you would like to make?

Timmy –Big props to Boscoe France. He is a legend.

Taylor – He’s a bad a**.

Timmy – He’s one of the most awesome guitarists I’ve ever known. Everything that I play probably has something to do with him. Watching him play as a kid is pretty much what influenced me to even play. I probably wouldn’t be playing guitar right now if it wasn’t for his influence on me.

You can keep up with Fighting Fate on Facebook by clicking this link.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Jeff Harp


Gear Guide—Matt Parker’s Warwick Custom Corvette Bass

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (1/11/13)—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 Matt Parker's Warwick Custom Corvette $$ four-string bass (seen in photos).

When you first meet Matt, his height and stature are immediately noticeable—he’s a big guy. Fortunately, his bass tone and skills are equally expansive. From defined and poppy funk-style slapping, to dirty, all-out wallops, Matt provides a solid rhythmic foundation for local band, Laced. Yet, beyond his choice of slapping or picking, how does Matt produce such a bone-rattling, low-end punch? Read on.

2007 Warwick Custom Corvette $$ Double – Tech Specs

Pickups—Two active/passive MEC humbucking pickups with coil-tapping capabilities

Body Wood/Design—Double cutaway Swamp Ash body

Neck Wood—Ovangkol (or Mozambique) neck with Wenge fingerboard

Neck Shape/Style—Bolt-on with rounded profile, satin finish

Finish—Opaque black satin stain (wood grain visible through finish); no binding

Tuners—Custom Warwick machine heads

Bridge/Tailpiece—Warwick standard, 2 pieces

Volume/Tone Controls—Two coil-tap mini-toggle switches; a push-pull active/passive control; 3-band EQ

The amp head Matt uses with his Warwick Custom Corvette $$ is a Peavey 600 Touring Class-D. The amp head is connected to a 4X10 Hartke XL speaker cabinet, which projects the sound. Additionally, Matt uses an Aguilar brand Tone Hammer preamp pedal for added EQ control and extra overdrive/distortion.

While many a bass connoisseur—or guitar aficionado for that matter—can appreciate Matt’s custom instrument and the unique tonewoods it is constructed from, how did Matt first get his hands on the four-string masterpiece?

“I originally bought a Warwick Thumb Bass in early 2000 and I used it until the on-board EQ went out,” says Matt. “Then, I saw the Corvette $$ on Craigslist. The guy who had it wanted to trade, so I rolled down to Nashville, Tennessee. I was able to trade even for it, which was pretty sweet.”

In regard to the tone he can get from it, as well as why he wanted to snatch it up, Matt explains that, “Warwick is known for their ‘evil-like’ growl, which has a lot to do with the unique woods they use. So that’s actually a lot of what attracted me to play it in the first place. I love that crazy growl when I play.”

Matt also notes that the included coil-tapping switches (both of which are situated adjacent to the tone/volume controls) make it easy to get either a thinner, Fender P-Bass type tone or a grittier, humbucking-style sound right on the spot.

Want to hear what Matt’s bass and setup sounds like? If so, take a listen to a lineup of original Laced tracks by clicking the ReverbNation player attached below this article. You can also check out Laced’s newest single, “Overrated,” which will appear on their upcoming freshman album release, by clicking here.

To check out more on Laced—and music in general—check out the Sugg Street Post’s “The Lounge” section by clicking here.

Want us to feature your favorite piece of gear? Contact us by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through our official Facebook page.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jeff Harp


Gear Guide—Brent Seaton’s Modified Les Paul Studio

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (1/5/13)—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 Brent Seaton’s singular Gibson Les Paul Studio (seen in photos). 

From chugging rhythm work and stinging lead lines, to dynamic clean tones and original chord progressions, Brent Seaton’s work with rock foursome, Laced, is both powerful and distinctive. As a result, Brent is able to compliment fellow Laced guitarist, Tim Cullen, across a variety of styles. Yet, beyond his personal choice of pick attack and fretting techniques, how does Brent produce such a sweeping array of dynamic tones? Read on. 

Modified 2009 Gibson Les Paul Studio – Tech Specs

Pickups—Uncovered Gibson “Dirty Fingers” pickup in the bridge position; uncovered Gibson “Burstbucker 2” pickup in the neck position (both are aftermarket modifications performed by Brent)

Body Wood/Design—Single cutaway, weight-relieved mahogany body with carved maple top

Neck Wood—Mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard and trapezoid inlays

Neck Shape—Rounded ‘50s style profile

Finish—Black satin; no binding

Tuners—TonePros Vintage style keystone tuners

Bridge/Tailpiece—Tune-o-matic style bridge with chrome stopbar tailpiece

Volume/Tone Controls—Volume and tone controls for bridge and neck pickup; standard 3-way toggle switch (rhythm /lead/both) 

The amplifier Brent uses with his Les Paul Studio—both live and while recording—is a Fender Frontman 212R. The connection between the amp and guitar’s output is made possible by a Samson wireless guitar rig. Additionally, Brent augments his sound and tone via several effects pedals, which include a BOSS Flanger, a BOSS DD7 Digital Delay, a Dunlop 535Q Wah, and a BOSS Chromatic Tuner. 

Whereas some musicians choose to use gear that differs from their live rig when recording an album, Brent remains consistent with amp choice and guitar sound across the board. 

“My stage setup is the exact same as what I use in the studio,” says Brent. “I believe every artist should use the gear they recorded with so that their live sound is as close as possible to the sound you hear on the album. I use, and have used, a Fender Frontman 212R for a total of eight years, and I don’t plan on ever using anything else.” 

But why Fender? 

“Fender amps have the most immaculate clean tone,” explains Brent, “and the distortion and overdrive on the 212R is simply amazing. It has a nice bass and mid sound that I look for when playing clean, and the bass and treble mix on the distortion channel is really nice, too. To some, it’s almost like blasphemy to use a Gibson guitar with a Fender brand anything, but I believe our fans, as well as both companies, have been - and are - satisfied with what I’ve done with the combination.” 

When asked when he acquired his guitar, and why, Brent explained that, “This Les Paul is my very first, but it definitely won’t be my last. I had no intentions of buying anything when I went to the Guitar Center in Evansville [Indiana] back in 2009, but when I played this Les Paul, I knew I had to have it. Today, after the modifications I’ve done, I like to think that my tone is one-of-a-kind—not because I’m conceited or anything, but because I’ve really never heard a tone quite like mine. I’ve heard close but not exactly the same. My tone fits Laced’s style so perfectly just because of the overall sound we go for. If you listen to our song ‘Swamp Thing,’ you can hear a more alternative rock sound in the lead areas, which is a huge part of our sound. Then, if you listen to ‘MayHAM,’ you can hear the smooth Fender clean sound that I mentioned before. Overall, my goal is to make people wonder how I get such a clean tone on both channels, and, in my opinion, it’s the mixture of Gibson guitars and Fender amps. There’s just nothing like turning on a song and being able to feel the music because the guitar leads cut through so perfectly.” 

Regarding his initial encounter with a Frontman amp, Brent says, “The first time I ever came across a Fender Frontman amplifier was at [the former] Backstreet Music location in Madisonville. I was in dire need of an amp at the time, because I had a gig coming up in about 30 minutes and didn’t have anything other than my guitar. Thank God for the late [Backstreet Music owner and respected local musician] Randy Herrick. He talked me into buying the amp, and after that, I knew the Fender was going to be the amp I used forever.” 

Other than the modifications Brent made in terms of his guitar’s electronics, the instrument also wears some unique “war wounds” as a result of routine playing and maintenance. 

“I almost had an emotional breakdown when I got the first scratch on my Les Paul [laughs]. I was restringing it and the bridge for the strings fell off and chipped the paint. I was seriously going crazy,” recalls Brent of the “ever-fateful” incident. “I called our drummer, Taylor Sanders, and told him the bad news. He just laughed [laughs]. The second time it happened, I was doing the same thing, but this time I dropped wire cutters on the guitar while cutting the strings. I’ve got cigarette burns on the headstock from where I’ve been jamming and had to find a place for my smoke. I would just stick the cigarette in between the E string and the headstock. Obviously, that’s not the smartest decision, but it gives the guitar more character.” 

Want to hear what Brent's guitar and setup sounds like? If so, take a listen to a lineup of original tracks by Laced by clicking the ReverbNation player attached below this article.

To check out more on Laced—and music in general—check out the Sugg Street Post’s “The Lounge” section by clicking here

Want us to feature your favorite piece of gear? Contact us by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through our official Facebook page

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jeff Harp

  • Published in Music

GypsyLifter – It’s Good to be Home

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (11/13/12) – Not quite sure where I was going due to a last minute heads up, I drove through the Kentucky countryside awaiting a phone call that would determine my destination.

All I knew was that I was headed towards White Plains to sit in on a recording session with local rock band, GypsyLifter. I continued to call drummer Randy Stone without luck, not yet realizing that he had no cellphone reception deep in the rural hills where the band was recording their newest album.

I finally hit White Plains with no real plan. I’d simply hoped to hear back from Randy by the time I’d arrived so he could give me further directions. It was a hot Sunday afternoon and my aging Cadillac was without air conditioning, so the strategy quickly changed. It was time to hit up the gas station to beat the heat, grab a soda, and ask the employee behind the counter if they knew “the original groove mechanic,” AKA Landon Miller, the band’s bass player. The recording session was actually going to be taking place in his home.

Walking in, my hopes weren’t terribly high that the lady behind the counter would know who I was talking about, but I asked anyway. I noticed her name tag said Michelle. At first, she seemed confused by my question. As I went on to inform her that I was a reporter and was supposed to be sitting in on their recording session, her facial expression quickly changed.

“Are you talking about Landon who is in a band with Chad Estes?” Michelle inquired.

I nodded as my optimism fluttered.

“Chad is my brother,” she replied smiling.

I couldn’t believe my luck. I swear, sometimes the cosmos aligns.

Michelle drew me a crude map on a yellow post-it note and I went on my way. I glanced down at the directions as I left the gas station. A post-it note is 3 inches by 3 inches. Michelle had only managed to map out half of my journey to Landon’s. The rest of the directions she had relayed to me vocally. So I hopped back in the Caddy and hoped for the best.

Once I’d arrived near the described location, it became a matter of finding the correct house. Michelle had specifically pointed out that I was looking for a trailer. I pulled into a long gravel driveway, parked my car, and walked towards what I hoped was the right place as two dogs running up the driveway verbally assaulted me.

Approaching the single-wide trailer, I could hear a steady drum beat and Chad Estes’s voice over the band as they rocked out to “Confidential Blues,” a song I’d heard before. Relieved, I knew I’d found the right place. I waited until the song was finished to avoid messing up the recording and then knocked on the back door.

The band welcomed me warmly and offered me a beer. We all sat down together and listened to the powerful lyrics and commanding bluesy melodies of the recently recorded tune. Pleased with the track, the group decided to take a little break, giving me a chance to kick back on the front porch, enjoy the rustic solitude, and speak with the guys.

“We got started this afternoon around 1:30,” explained Landon. “Today we are going to try to get down four tracks, which is really ambitious.”

Although the group does not yet have a name finalized for the album they are recording, they do have a name for the studio they are recording it in

“Tin Can Studios,” grinned Landon. “We’re in a trailer, so when the studio is here it is Tin Can Studios. I’ve lived out here for about five years or so. All this is family out here, too, so we don’t get any flack from anybody. This is our sanctuary.”

“We get no signal out here, which is cool in a way because we don’t get interrupted,” said Chad. “The only calls that come through here are telemarketers and bill collectors.”

GypsyLifter singer and rhythm guitarist, Chad Estes, has been playing guitar since he was 12 and writing music since he was 17 years-old.

“We actually still play some of the songs I wrote when I was 17,” said Chad. “I was more prolific back then, but most of it was terrible. We’re starting to work more as a group, but right now what we are doing is pretty much my compositions.”

Randy also began his musical journey at the tender age of 12. Coincidentally enough, Landon actually gave him his first pair of drumsticks in 1993.

“By Christmas, I had a new drum set thanks to my dear old Grandma,” Randy smiled.

Chad informed me that the name of the band has changed three times since the group got together last November of 2011. The trio is currently undergoing multiple epic recording sessions with Steve Smith of Nashville, TN.

“I’m just an independent guy,” Steve pointed out. “I just have some equipment and I really love recording undiscovered bands. It’s great fun. You meet nice people that way.”

Steve works as a touring concert sound engineer and a recording engineer. Steve has worked with Shooter Jennings, The Mavericks, Suzy Bogguss, Dwight Yoakum, Reba McEntire, Don Williams, Tom T. Hall, and Uriah Heep, just to name a few.

“When I first moved to Nashville in the 80’s, I was lucky that I met all the old school musicians like Johnny Cash and all those kind of people,” said Steve. “I was pretty young then, and I was exposed to the golden age of country before it became a real pop thing. That was great fun. Before that, I worked with English rock bands and punk bands and stuff like that. I still tour with an Irish punk band called Stiff Little Fingers. They came out in ‘77. They were kind of contemporaries of The Clash and the Sex Pistols and all that stuff. They just never became quite as famous here, but in Europe they are into that kind of thing.”

GypsyLifter will be unleashing the sound on their new album by recording as a full band, unlike many groups recording today who record individual musical components separately.

“We’re doing more of the live thing,” explained Chad. “The song we recorded previously, before you came in, ‘Magnet,’ we play as a full band all the way through. The only thing that will be overdubbed is the vocals. The only reason you can’t do the vocals live is because they bleed over through everything else.”

Steve’s easygoing style of recording and his love for working with undiscovered artists in their element is a respectable and refreshing aspect to GypsyLifter’s new album.

“It’s been fun to me since I was a kid in the seventies,” said Steve. “I grew up recording bands in garages, in house trailers, and that kind of stuff. I started learning how to record and everything because I wrote radio plays, comedy skits, and stuff like that. I grew up way out in the country and there weren’t any kids around me that were kindred spirits creatively. I got a tape recorder that I could do overdubs on so I could do all the voices and parts myself. That is what kind of got me started. After that I started recording music and stuff when I started playing guitar, and when my friends started tragically attempting it at the age of 14.”

“Steve is a true professional,” said Chad. “He comes to us, the way he records is better for me, and it works better for us as a group. It’s more relaxed and we’re in our element.”

“I enjoy recording people like this,” explained Steve. “Recording people that I just met through someone else, and kind of catching them at that moment. To me, GypsyLifter, they are just kind of what I call ‘rootsy’ in general. The songs are really excellent and the lyrics are great. Everybody is playing real well and they’ve got a great idea of an uncluttered, real arrangement. All that kind of stuff appeals to me.”

Unable to keep my toes from tapping to the catchy rhythms, I sat back, laughed, and enjoyed myself while watching the group banter back and forth. The driving pulse originating from one band, in one trailer, way out in the Kentucky country was wholly comforting. Watching these talented musicians do what they love, in the place they are most comfortable, was really a natural pleasure. I felt as if I was simply sitting on my own front porch, eyes closed, enjoying some good old homegrown music.

Steve shared a story with me while I was there about an encounter he’d had with Johnny Cash that speaks volumes when it comes to my experience with the guys from GypsyLifter.

“One time I was just standing in the Nashville airport waiting for my bag after I got back home,” said Steve. “I look over and standing next to me there waiting for his bag is Johnny Cash. He was like, ‘Waiting for your bag son?’ and I was like ‘Yup.’ He asked, ‘Ya going home?’ ‘Yup’, I replied. ‘It’s good to be home,’ he said. He grabbed his bag and walked off.”

GypsyLifter’s rich and diverse sound is proof that they are doing things their own way. The new album, recorded completely in Tin Can Studios will, as their official site claims, surely bring “chaos to the order of the music scene today.” GypsyLifter is kicking up the dirt in their own back yard. All in all, it reminds me that it certainly is good to be home.

Sugg Street Post
Article and Photos by Jessica Dockrey

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