Blue Blood – This Is The Life – 2015

blueblood

Several years before I was born my father was working in his bank office in downtown Atlanta when he got a phone call from a bank friend in Athens. The man asked my father to be on the lookout for someone in Atlanta that might want to take a job at the bank in Athens. The job wasn’t in my father’s department so the friend was surprised when my father responded, “well what do you think about me?” There may not be a more significant question asked in the formation of the man I’ve become.

My parents were planning to start a family and didn’t want to raise children in the hustle and bustle of the big city. My father took the job, which was pretty much a demotion, and a few years later I was born. A couple of years after I was born Micheal Stipe met Peter Buck at Wuxtry Records on Clayton Street. Being born and raised in Athens GA has shaped every aspect of my appreciation of music. Everyone knows the big names from Athens, REM, Drive-By Truckers and Widespread Panic and all three have influenced me a great deal. But my curiosity about the bands playing in bars lead me to wandering Clayton and Washington Streets looking for clubs that would let an 18-year-old inside to check out some music.  There are also the highly influential bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Flat Duo Jets and Drivin’N’Cryin that probably aren’t technically Athens bands but are Athens by association. Because I grew up in Athens my musical identity evolves from that genesis.

I don’t know if this idea about Athens music is something I made up or something I read that one of the town’s noteworthy figures said, but the great thing about Athens is that there is always some kid in a dorm room or in a shitty rental house that’s working on music that will make even the most jaded music fan sit up and listen. Whether the music will change the world or just change your world doesn’t matter, what matters is that there is always a kid in that town that does it.

That feeling of sitting up, being surprised and overjoyed is exactly what happened the moment I dropped the needle on Blue Blood’s debut album This Is The Life. Blue Blood isn’t reinventing the indie-rock wheel but they are without a doubt a crucial spoke in the evolution of Athens music. To make a name for yourself in Athens, to get people to come to your shows, you have to be really good. You have to invest in the art of your music but you also can’t try too hard. Trying too hard is what happens in Atlanta. Everything great about well-crafted, nonchalant rock music jumps out of the speakers throughout This Is The Life but especially during “The Kids Are The City.” If you want you can sit and listen to crunchy guitar leads and well-delivered, townie-life lyrics or you can just nod and sway. But what makes “The Kids Are The City” so quintessential is that if you’re really willing to let go of yourself, shake off the inhibitions and live a little, you can dance your heart out. It’s not a dance song, not by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re looking for a reason to dance the beat will find you.

“Money To Lose” begins as an easy sing-a-long with melodies like comfort food from Wilson’s Soul Food restaurant.  Yet the song ends in an out-of-nowhere and glorious guitar solo that’s reminiscent of Wilco’s “Impossible Germany” or The Glands’ “Straight Down.” But unlike those two noteworthy guitar solos, Blue Blood cuts this one shorter than they could have, possibly because compelling guitar work also highlights the following song “Birth Right.” But within “Birth Right”  as in each of the selections on This Is The Life, everything serves the songs. Each of the 11 songs are instantly memorable yet interesting upon repeated listens.

The drums on “The Buyout”, the next to last song, song like they’re ready to take off into full-on rock mode but the rest of the band isn’t ready to go there just yet. The musical tension between the drums and the rest of the band builds slightly throughout the song but the band wins. With the line “the walls are falling down” being repeated multiple times it completely sets the stage for the album closer.

“Black”, delivers the line “we had the time of our lives/don’t let it go to your head” enough times that you feel like, not only is the album over but so is the life within This Is The Life. The album doesn’t end with a bang or an outburst of drama but it feels conclusive and complete. It ends with the kid still in his room, trying but not trying to hard. Wanting to makes sense of life or the weekend and not always finding it. 

This Is The Life

The Kids Are The City

Birthright

Official Site, On Facebook, Buy This Is The Life

THE DARNELL BOYS – THE DARNELL BOYS

darnellboys

Regional Roots Rock can often revert to the formula “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” And why not, really? Formulas make people happy, especially when they’re solving for drinking and dancing. Play something that makes people think of O Brother Where Art Thou or Skynyrd and we can all get on until tomorrow. But what separates the bands you would’ve loved squatting in your college town from the bands you ignore as they play  a loud brunch restaurant?

Athens GA’s Darnell Boys muster the magnetism and maturity to make you listen, while cultivating enough shock and melody to keep you from feeling like you’ve heard this before. Their debut self-titled album digs the region’s rich musical well. They haul up a spooky tune called “Bury Me” that makes you remember that Tom Waits rips off plenty of old southern roots in his signature sounds. They’ve got piedmont blues-folk that echoes back to medicine show stuff like Carl Martin and the Tennessee Chocolate Drops. They’ve got wheeling, percussion-less songs that’ll please fans of the first couple Justin Townes Earle records or Adult Boys Thunder Band. Awesome porch music all around–pizza place music, songs for barbecues, Friday nights, or river picnics.

Can’t Be Loved
One More Train
Infinite Drought
Bury Me

This record is mixed remarkably well; it’s nice to feel like you’re getting an accurate, immediate representation of the band on a recording. Definitely a cared-for and lovely product. Find the digital on iTunes, Amazon, or emusic. Grab the CD from Orange Twin Records (also home of stuff by Madeline Adams, Nana Grizol, Elf Power, and Neutral Milk Hotel). Follow the Darnell Boys and their mighty string of southeastern dates on their website, blog, and Facebook.

BLOODKIN – BABY, THEY TOLD US WE WOULD RISE AGAIN

Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again is the Athens, Ga. based Bloodkin’s seventh album, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of them. Bloodkin is; Daniel Hutchens (vocals, guitars), Eric Carter (guitars, backing vocals), Eric Martinez (guitars, backing vocals), William Tonks (guitars, dobros, backing vocals), David Nickel (bass) and Aaron Phillips (drums). When I first heard the album I was immediately drawn in by their similar feel to that of The Drive-By Truckers.

A shared home base, a vast array of guitar players and a common sound to DBT is not where the Bloodkin/DBT common road ends, though. I’d guess that the two bands are kindred spirits as illustrated in the liner notes by Patterson Hood himself when he writes, “This is music reflecting not just the pain and suffering that accompanies life but also the love and beauty that hopefully fights for it’s rightful place alongside it. Life affirming Rock and Roll in the finest tradition. This is music to LIVE with and it don’t get any better than that…” That could just as easily describe almost any Truckers album. The common path doesn’t end there, either, since the album was produced by veteran DBT producer David Barbe and the album features Mike Cooley sitting in on banjo on the track “The Viper”.

Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again is devoid of any of the trappings of the corporate rock sound. A Southern rock album that’s pure, honest and Essential Listening.

Bloodkin – Easter Eggs
Bloodkin – Place To Crash
Bloodkin – Little Margarita

Bloodkin’s Official Site, Bloodkin on myspace, Buy Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again