A Broader Lens: Catching up with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Clara Balzary

In a recording career spanning more than a decade, Dawes has released a string of timeless-sounding albums. With songs including the anthemic “When My Time Comes” to the ’70s A.M. radio strains of “Time Spent In Los Angeles” to the Yacht Rock polish of “Feed The Fire,” the quartet has managed to stay reverent and relevant at the same time. On Wednesday, September 8, Dawes will perform at Avondale Brewing Company. The band is currently touring in support of its 2020 release Good Luck With Whatever (Rounder Records). Recently, Taylor Goldsmith – the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter – spoke with us by phone from his Los Angeles home.

Southern Stages: Taylor, thanks for your time. How have you and your band held up throughout Covid?

Taylor Goldsmith: We’re good. It’s an intense time. Everyone’s safety comes first so we are trying to act accordingly. Some people want to complain about that, but that’s how we have to do it. Obviously, no one has all the answers but we’re being as safe as we can based on the info that we have. The idea that we get to go back out and play shows is awesome. It’s a strange first step forward but we’re very excited.

Southern Stages: Of course, each of us took our lumps during the pandemic. But I always think about the impact on artists in particular whose lives are based around travel, touring income and audience interaction. It must have been quite the upheaval.

Goldsmith: Music was the first thing to go down and it seems like the it’s the last thing to come back. My wife’s [Mandy Moore] an actress and her show has a protocol at this point that everyone can get onboard with, but group gatherings are a different thing so it’s been tough. It’s taken a lot of time, but it’s given us a lot of perspective and a lot of gratitude for the jobs we have – we won’t be taking it for granted.

Southern Stages: We are enjoying Good Luck With Whatever. Are the songs on the album mostly newer compositions, older ones or a mixture of both?

Goldsmith: Sort of a mixture, but that helped us find out what the album should be. We had the song “Still Feel Like A Kid” and we tried it for [2018 album] Passwords and it didn’t work because we tried it as a midtempo ballad. But it did give birth and direction to Good Luck With Whatever. Good Luck With Whatever became a manchild’s reckoning with adulthood [laughs] and that song became the thesis statement for everything else. Even though it’s light and humorous, I feel like it’s one of the most honest songs I’ve ever written.

Southern Stages: Did the album release get altered due to Covid or was a fall 2020 release date always the plan?

Goldsmith: That was always the plan. We recorded it the year before and it was all written and recorded before Covid hit. We had the idea to take the year off and give our fans a break because we’ve just toured so much. We thought, “Here’s a chance to record this record and put it on ice” and everyone did it. We actually recorded another record in November and now we’re sitting on that one. Because we’ve been home so much, our recording schedule has gotten ahead of our touring schedule.

Southern Stages: If you will, talk about the experience of forging your career with your brother, Griffin, alongside you in the band.

Goldsmith: It works because we put that first. We all want to go play music and make records, but if it gets in the way of something somebody wants to do and it starts harming relationships, then it doesn’t matter. It’s not even a democracy where three guys want this and one guy wants that. We just keep talking it 0ut until we are all 100% on the same page. Whenever a band is falling out of love with each other, the audience is the first to know it and you can tell when it’s a business. We try to make sure that our relationship is as healthy as it ever was because that’s what makes any band have a shot at being special.

Southern Stages: How do you feel about the current musical climate in the age of Youtube, Spotify and satellite radio? How do you reconcile the accessibility with being found among the flood of content available?

Goldsmith: When I try to step back and take a look at it through a broader lens, it seems like the leaders of a generation and cultural icons will be happening less and less because, like you said, there is so much available. If you’re an American kid between 20 and 30, there are so many people that can represent the way you think and see the world artistically. I think that can really be a cool thing. If you go in certain circles and ask who Jeff Tweedy and Phoebe Bridgers are, they’re going to look at you like “Who are you talking about?” In other circles, those are going to be icons forever. We all have a chance to find our audience in new ways. I feel a very strong connection to the Dawes community, but I know when I get on a plane there’s not going to be a single person that knows who I am and I think that’s really cool. As long as we all manage expectations and understand that there’s room for pop music and cutting-edge hip-hop and Taylor Goldsmith with an acoustic guitar all in the same world to varying degrees but still having a space, I think that’s a quality of this time we’re living in and worth celebrating.

Southern Stages: You’ve played some songs in your catalog hundreds – even thousands – of times by now. How do older songs stay fresh and relevant to you?

Goldsmith: One thing I’ve been doing more recently is playing with the set list. We just went on a little run and played three nights in a row and I made sure that we didn’t play any song twice. We also try to play a little bit with how we play it. One night recently, I played “When My Time Comes” just on acoustic guitar and let the audience sing most of it. But if you told me I had to play a song the way it sounds on the record for the rest of my career, I’d be thrilled to do it. I think the fans reignite it each night – it’s like they’re doing it for us. The fact that they respond to it the way they do and sing along with it – I’m feeling their excitement from it. We have seven albums and if we’re in the same city for two nights, we’re okay with giving two completely different experiences.

Dawes will perform at Avondale Brewing on Wednesday, September 8 with special guest Erin Rae. Advance tickets to the 7 p.m. all-ages show are $32.50 and can be purchased at www.avondalebrewing.com.

Please Note: Per the artist’s request, please note this show is requiring all fans to provide PRINTED proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event OR full vaccination for entry. All fans must have received a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours before entry to the facility and provide printed proof of a negative result prior to entering the venue. Or, be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (at least two weeks after final dose) and have the option to provide proof of vaccination – either the original vaccination card or a printed copy of the vaccination card. Unvaccinated fans under 12 years of age will be required to take a COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours before entry to the facility and will provide printed proof of negative result prior to entering the venue. Unvaccinated fans over 12 years old with a valid medical restriction & medical note will be required to take a COVID-19 diagnostic test within 72-hours before entry to the facility, and will provide printed proof of negative result prior to entering the venue.

Review: Watchhouse gives us familiar faces with a new name, expanded sound

By Brent Thompson

Changing the name of a band more than a decade since its debut release – especially a band with a loyal following – is a bold move to say the least. With that said, welcome to the bold new world of Watchhouse, formerly known as Mandolin Orange. The duo of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz has recently-released its self-titled album under the new moniker and there are evident changes beyond the name. Released on Tiptoe Tiger Music/Thirty Tigers and produced by Josh Kaufman (The National, The Hold Steady), the album’s nine tracks find the duo exploring sonic territory beyond its trademark contemporary folk sound. Themes of parenthood, isolation and climate change are set to a lush, even jazzy, sound. Watchhouse should serve the band well as existing fans will stay onboard and new ones will be made along the way.

Bigger Than Us: A Conversation with Maggie Rose

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Ford Fairchild

You could call Maggie Rose’s musical style soul, pop and country and you’d be correct. In a recording career that spans more than a decade, the Nashville-based singer has proved adept at melding several genres into her own unique sound. Her latest album, Have a Seat – produced by Alabama Shakes’ Ben Tanner and set for release on August 20 – finds Rose leaning heavily into her soul side. This is most fitting given that Have a Seat was recorded at hallowed FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. On Thursday, August 12, Rose will perform at Saturn. Recently, she spoke with us by phone from her Memphis tour stop.

Southern Stages: Maggie, thanks for your time. We are looking forward to the Birmingham show. When did the tour begin?

Maggie Rose: We started on June 15 in Annapolis, Md. – the Have a Seat tour was kicked off there. It’s been really fun.

Southern Stages: Are you seeing any new parts of the country on this tour?

Rose: I have pretty much criss-crossed this country as much as one can do it [laughs]. The only state I haven’t been to is Alaska. Hopefully, someone will invite us to perform in Alaska sometime soon.

Southern Stages: Being an Alabama-based publication, we are excited that Have a Seat was recorded in Muscle Shoals.

Rose: It made it very special for me, too.

Southern Stages: If you will, talk about about the decision to record at FAME Studios.

Rose: Ben Tanner definitely accelerated my interest in recording there, but I was at an event that Halley Phillips – Sam Phillips’ granddaughter – put together called Music Row to Muscle Shoals around December 2018. I had gone to FAME before to write, but I didn’t understand the sanctity of that room. You can feel the energy in the room and it was nice to get a little distance between me and Music Row, where I’d recorded all of my previous projects. It’s analog – it’s not bells and whistles and things that make you go down a rabbit hole. You just make great soul music there.

Southern Stages: How did you first connect with Ben?

Rose: I was introduced to Ben Tanner through my publisher and he knows the Muscle Shoals sound and FAME Studios so well. He’s such a great producer and plays with the Alabama Shakes, of course. He was able to help me – in addition to the musicians from Them Vibes, who I tour with – put together this really eclectic band. David Hood was part of it, [former Bonnie Raitt guitarist] Will McFarlane, Zac Cockrell from the Shakes played bass on a bunch of tracks and we had people from Brittany Howard’s band. It was this awesome collection of people young and old – some of them super established in their careers and some of them just getting to play in that room for the first time. The energy was kinetic – you could feel how excited everyone was to be there and it was such a collaborative effort. It was a magical memory to make before we all went into the lockdown. It just made me appreciate the songs even more because I knew what a special experience it was and I was grateful we got achieve it.

Southern Stages: You are based in Nashville these days. Where are you from originally?

Rose: Originally, I grew up in Maryland – right outside of D.C. – and I’ve lived in Nashville for over 13 years now.

Southern Stages: Are the songs on Have a Seat mostly newer compositions, songs that had been around for a while or a combination of both?

Rose: All of the songs for this record were written within a six-month period. Once the seed was sown that I would cut my record at FAME, I think subconsciously I went into my writing and collaborations knowing that I wanted to incorporate that soul and R&B that you hear from so much of the music that has come out of that room. There is a lot of political contention that inspired the themes of these songs – I wanted to write about inclusivity and communication, but also being an individual and making room for everybody. So all of the themes written into these songs became even more relevant to me when we were all put in this pressure cooker of the pandemic and polarizing rhetoric. It felt like these songs evolved in meaning because of everything we went through and it influenced the sequencing of the album.

Southern Stages: Obviously, everyone took their lumps throughout Covid. But I can’t imagine the upheaval that artists endured with no travel, loss of touring income and no audience interaction. Frankly, I was expecting to hear more tragic stories like the one we heard about Justin Townes Earle.

Rose: Yes, and the Justin Townes Earle situation was devastating and I know a lot of people that didn’t make it who were in proximity to the artists. It really humbles you and you realize it’s so much bigger than the individual – it takes a village to do what we do. To give the music away, you need the audience in front of you. The venues that we love have staffs that aren’t going to have any work. It just makes you realize that everything we’re doing is part of something way bigger than us.

Southern Stages: How do you feel about today’s musical climate in the age of Spotify, Youtube, social media platforms and other outlets?

Rose: I think there are pros and cons for that level of accessibility. How much is too much? You want to keep some level of separation between your daily life and what you’re doing in your art form. When everything locked down, having that avenue to stay connected with people and give them some regularity in a time of such ambiguity – like doing a stream every Friday – was something you could count on. It felt like a gift. I was also forced to connect with people through social media that I hadn’t ever done before. I started this podcast called Salute the Songbird where I interview all these women in the industry that I love – some of them are legends like Nancy Wilson and other people are artists that I want more people to know about. I don’t know that I would’ve really forced myself to listen if all of this hadn’t transpired. I think it was about being quiet and being a conduit for these conversations and not being the subject of them. It goes hand-in-hand with this album and what the songs are about, too. Let people speak their minds and show them love, even if you don’t agree with everything they say. That’s what we should be doing for each other.

Southern Stages: Thanks again for your time today. In closing, is there anything specifically you want us to know prior to the Saturn show on August 12?

Rose: The band I tour with, Them Vibes, also has their own awesome original material and they do a set before I do. And Dylan Hartigan opens up the show – we met him when were out with Kelly Clarkson. He jumps up for a song and he’s just phenomenal. We’re a big family rolling down the road in this bus and it’s three-stop shopping.

Maggie Rose will perform at Saturn on Thursday, August 12. Them Vibes and Dylan Hartigan will open the 8 p.m. show. Advance tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.saturnbirmingham.com.

Review: The Return of Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

By Brent Thompson

Few, if any, artists had the career momentum of bluesman Christone “Kingfish” Ingram when Covid-19 abruptly derailed the live music industry. Like fellow young torch-bearer and roots artist Billy Strings, Ingram rang in traditional sounds for a new generation of listeners with his Grammy-nominated 2019 debut, Kingfish. Now, Covid is hopefully subsiding, Ingram is older (albeit only 22) and he has endured the passing of his mother. His new release, 662 [Alligator Records], is a mature and cohesive effort that retains the energy of his debut album. Straight-on blues tracks (“662,” “She Calls Me Kingfish”) sit alongside soul (“Another Life Goes By”) and jazz-tinged (“That’s All It Takes”) numbers across the album’s 14 tracks. Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, George Thorogood) again handles Ingram’s production duties and the pair make a good team. Ingram is older, world-wiser and now has an expanded catalog of songs. His upside is endless and we are glad to be along for the ride.



Concert Shots: Phish at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre 7-30-21

By Brent Thompson

On Friday night, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre came alive thanks to Phish and its legion of followers that filled the venue. The show – originally scheduled for 2020 – emitted an energy that was further heightened due to the delay that artists and live music lovers have endured throughout Covid. Playing two sets plus an encore, the band’s setlist included “Back On The Train,” “Ghost,” “Harry Hood” and “Gumbo.”


Road Trip Recap: String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks July 16-18

By Adam Coulter Johnson

This Must Be The Place…

It’s hard to put into words how nice it was to hear live music again. This particular Incident has been in the making for over a year. A quick step back in time for just one story…

The original plan was to head up to the mountains for a weekend. We would enjoy some SCI in Dillon and then roll over to Red Rocks. I had big plans to propose during the space between shows. Spoiler alert – that trip didn’t happen.

“Howdy friends! We’re gonna settle in for a few days and try to enjoy this as much as we can.”

When String Cheese greeted us like this, we knew we were in for a good run.

The 2021 Incident on the Rocks opened with a 16 minute “Shine” that helped to reconnect the band and the community. It wasn’t long before we all started to get our sea legs again.

The first night continued to roll on with a fun “Boo Boo’s Pik-A-Nik” into “Can’t Stop Now.” And just like that, the entire amphitheatre was dancing out of control. 

The entire first night seemed full of metaphors for the hell that was 2020. “Restless Wind,” “Round the Wheel” and “Beautiful” played together nicely to close out the first set. 

The energy was climbing at this point and showed no signs of stopping. Bill greeted us to start the second set with some encouraging words of affirmation reminding us that we need not take this for granted.

Second set opened with a soft melodic tone to welcome everyone back to the show. Kang’s violin started playing over the funky bass groove to get us all dancing to “Hi Ho No Show.”

A favorite moment from the entire weekend followed when Keith, Jason and Michael started the melody for “This Must Be The Place.” Being able to dance with my wife to our song, listening to Cheese play it live at Red Rocks – you can’t put that emotion into words. I will hold onto that moment until my heart stops.

The positive vibe kept soaring to new heights when they played into “Heads Up Jam.”

The other major highlight from the second set came when Bill shared with us a tune that he wrote, “Good Times Around the Bend.” He told us this song helped him a lot through this past year. You could sense from the Cheese family that he’s not alone on this one either.

The night finished out on a very upbeat, fun dance vibe with “Joyful Sound,” “Rumble,” “Black and White” and the second set closed with the always favorite “Texas.”

The encore followed with the dance theme and they shut the night down with an 11-minute strong “Colliding.”

Night two would pick up right where we left off. Set one was coming in hot with “Sirens>Believe” to kick us off. Kim Dawson would come out to help with “Misty Mountain Hop” to end the first set. Set two had a surprise for us early when we were treated to Peter Anspach from Goose sitting in on keys for “Jellyfish.”

Technically, we got two sets and an encore on night two. The encore was solid enough it could be considered a third set. Kim Dawson joined the guys on stage once again. Jason Hand paid tribute to Biz Markie and had us all singing “Oh baby you, got what I need…” 

All of Red Rocks was moving with such energy you would think the night was just getting started. SCI would wrap up night two with Kim and Murray’s favorite, “Colorado Bluebird Sky.”

Never miss a Sunday Show…

This statement has never been more appropriate. Sunday got off to a fun start with “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” to get everybody up and moving right away. 

The first set really started to open up when they played “45th of November.” This kept rolling into “Born on the Wrong Planet” into “Mouna Bowa.” One song seamlessly into the next and before you know it we are all grooving to a quintessential SCI tune, “Miss Brown’s Teahouse.”

The place was filled with a sort of bittersweet energy as the weekend headed into the final set of music. The final set for the weekend didn’t slow down and made sure to leave all of hearts full and spirits high. Opening with “All We Got” and cruising straight on into “Vertigo” and then into “Bumpin’ Reel.” Then we all head into the night, dancing with our crew and taking it all in and everyone is singing along to “Get Tight.” The final push for the run came at us with “Come As You Are” into a tribal-like drums into the “Rhythm Of The Road.” Closing out the final set was a song Kyle wrote about the impact of live music on him – specifically the Grateful Dead – “The Big Reveal.”

The final crescendo would come almost without warning. Each night getting better as the show went on, each encore proving to be more energetic than the previous – and the final encore would follow suit: “I Know You Rider “into “Stir It Up” and back into “I Know You Rider.”

String Cheese Incident never disappoints. The community, the music, the energy…always comes through and things just have a funny way of falling into place. This Incident was no different. Let’s not take this for granted.

SCI will be out on the road August 6-7 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California. You can also join them in Runaway Bay, Jamaica for the International Incidents January 21-25 and 26-30.


Newfound Gratitude: A Conversation with Sister Hazel’s Jett Beres

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Dave Schlenker

In a recording career spanning more than 25 years, Sister Hazel has stayed the course and remained relevant in an industry of ever-changing styles and trends. Dubbed as one of the “Top Most Influential Performers of the Last 15 Years” by Performing Songwriter Magazine, the band has amassed an enormous fan base while being involved in charitable endeavors along the way. On Sunday, June 20, Sister Hazel will perform at Euphonious at the Birmingham Zoo. Recently, bassist Jett Beres spoke with us by phone from his South Florida home.

Birmingham Stages: Jett, thanks for your time. It’s almost impossible to interview any touring musician without asking what the past year has been like and how you kept your sanity through the Covid storm.

Jett Beres: We did some stuff over the lockdown year. We did some drive-in shows and we did some live streams and were eventually able to being in a small audience. We kept as busy as we could, but we’re a touring band and we’re used to being on the road 100 days a year. Starting with Memorial Day weekend, things are off to the races and I’m seeing our schedule looking pretty booked – it feels great. And I’ve got to tell you, my wife is happy about that too [laughs].

Birmingham Stages: I’m pleasantly relieved that I haven’t heard many tragic stories about musicians given the drought in travel and loss of income for such a lengthy period of time.

Beres: That’s an interesting point. I can speak from our perspective and our friends in other bands and you also have to think about the crews. A band like us has residual income, but crews live on the road and that’s their whole deal. Just in our little sphere, we saw a lot of struggling. Between the band and who we work with directly, there was a real sense of community and being there for each other. We felt that support from our fans in lockdown and I imagine most artists did – that’s what kept us alive. Although we’ve chosen to live this out-of-the-norm kind of life, it also creates some resiliency. After being together for 25 or 30 years, there is a newfound gratitude for each other, the music and our fans.

Birmingham Stages: We are looking forward to the Birmingham show. As you know, Birmingham has supported Sister Hazel from the very beginning and there is still great enthusiasm for your band here.

Beres: The calendar pops up and there are certain places where you say, “Alright!” Birmingham is always one of them.

Birmingham Stages: With band members residing in Florida, Georgia and Washington D.C., are there challenges to being geographically spread out?

Beres: We really kind of work out everything on the road. Being off the road, we recorded a song, “When Love Takes Hold,” and we recorded it all remotely from our hometowns and made a little video from it where we’re all in our home studios making the song. That was a first for us – we found that we could build a track with everybody in their own houses.

Birmingham Stages: With a large catalog of material now at your disposal, how does your band construct set lists these days?

Beres: We have about six to eight songs that we kind of have to play and we do about a 16-song set. The other eight to ten usually consist of a couple of new ones to get them out there and some old stuff including deep tracks. We also do one or two self-indulgent ones [laughs].

Birmingham Stages: How do you view the musical climate in the age of Spotify, Youtube, satellite radio and other modern outlets? What are the pros and cons of the current model?

Beres: That’s a good question and could probably be a whole hour-long conversation. We’ve put out a cassette tape [laughs] – can you imagine what we’ve seen in our career? CDs are really coasters and when your car starts coming without CD players you’re like, “I guess things are changing.” So it changes the structure and you don’t sell records like you used to sell records. I have embraced it and I like the fact that our fans all over can access the music. The biggest problem that I see is the attention span because of how the platforms are and how people are easily ingesting their music. My son’s in a band – my fan base will still buy stuff and put headphones on; his [fans] are going to watch it from the phone. He’s about to make a record and I’m thinking, “How in the hell are we going to market to his fan base that basically is tuning out after 30 seconds?” So that’s where it becomes challenging and I hope it doesn’t degrade the art in the process.

Birmingham Stages: Your band has literally played some of its songs thousands of times by now. How do those songs stay fresh and relevant to you after all the years?

Beres: There are certain songs we play the same out of respect for the song and the listener, but enough of our set changes and we build in moments of improvisation. What keeps it fresh are the fresh faces every night that you’re playing to and that are singing along. It’s the feedback you get from the venue.

Sister Hazel will perform at Euphonious at the Birmingham Zoo on Sunday, June 20. For more information, please visit www.sisterhazel.com or www.euphonious.ai.

Heaven is Music: A Conversation with Jamie Barrier of The Pine Hill Haints

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Abraham Rowe

A cemetery may be an unlikely rehearsal space, but Pine Hill Cemetery proved to be the place where Jamie Barrier and his fellow musicians would hone the sound of The Pine Hill Haints. Taking its name from both the location and an archaic English term for “haunting,” the band melds roots influences into a unique sound that befits its self-described “Alabama Ghost Country” style of music. On May 14, the band will release The Song Companion of a Lonestar Cowboy [Single Lock Records]. Recently, we caught up with Barrier by phone.

Birmingham Stages: Jamie, thanks for your time. Where is your home base these days?

Jamie Barrier: You could say Florence or Muscle Shoals. I  live about 30 or 40 minutes north of the Tennessee River – I live in Tennessee right on the line. It’s where my family has been since 1814 or 1815.

Birmingham Stages: It’s hard to interview any artist without bringing up the past year. How did you spend your time since touring wasn’t an option?

Barrier: I did a lot of skateboarding and I did a lot of surfing. I live out in the woods so, COVID or not, I’m always writing and playing. I live so far from another human being – at times it was like it only existed on the news. I had COVID but may case wasn’t so bad.

Birmingham StagesWe are enjoying The Song Companion of a Lonestar Cowboy. Were the songs on this album newer compositions, older compositions or a mixture of both?

Barrier: You know, it’s both. I’m always writing and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. The songs may not be good, but I’ve never had a problem writing. We play a lot of shows and [songs] get played a million times before we ever record them. For example, “Back to Alabama” – I remember rehearsing that with an accordion player back around 2008 or 2009. There are a lot of songs that I’ll just forget about and they’ll go unused and that’s what that one was. We played a show in Pensacola about four years ago and a boy came to the gig – there a lot of people that bootleg us – and he said, “Hey man, I bootlegged a show years back and I can’t find this on any of your records. Do you have a title for it?” and I was like, “I forgot all about that song” [laughs]. There you have it – I put it on the new record.

Birmingham Stages: The ability to woodshed songs before you record them sounds like a great way to refine them before going into the studio.

Barrier: It is. You can tell from the reactions if they have any merit or not. With our instrumentation, there’s only so much you can do without sounding monotonous so it’s good to play a lot and get things as unique and individual as you can. It’s a fun challenge.

Birmingham Stages: How do you reconcile the pros and cons of the current musical climate in the age of iTunes, Youtube, satellite radio and other modern outlets?

Barrier: There a lot of people glued to the phone and there are advantages to be taken from it. I’m negative as far as all that stuff goes. I like to get out and play and go camping and travel and play music. Anything that’s driving people like cattle where they can be marketed and owned – I instantly get my hackles raised. Being from Alabama, we get accused of being these mountain and survivor types, so I feel resistance to the way the world is going. Everything I’ve learned has been out on the trail – I’ll see a band and friends will say, “Wait until you get to Michigan and see this band.”

Birmingham Stages: According to your bio, you grew up in a musical household. If you will, talk about the influence that had on you.

Barrier: I never knew them, but several years ago there was a band called The Barrier Brothers and they would play the Grand Ole Opry and they were known all around the Tennessee Valley. I always heard about them and I’m kin to Hank Williams and Johnny Horton. So when I was a kid that was always around. The first time I heard Black Sabbath, I was all in on it. My brothers play music and my uncle plays music and I was raised in the church so music has always been a heavy part of my life. I’ve always been told that Heaven is music.

Birmingham Stages: You mentioned the styles you were exposed to in your youth – country, gospel and hard rock – and all of those influences can be heard in your songs.

Barrier: You play in these big cities and you got San Francisco and play with a folk or bluegrass group and it is so good. What they’re doing is so pure, but in Alabama you have to be a jack of all trades. You’ve got to know your Skynyrd and you’ve got to know your hip-hop and Sabbath and your fiddle tunes. I feel like when you’re from somewhere with a lot more people, people are very selective. But if you’re where we’re from, you’ve got to know how to do some plumbing and change the oil. Musically, it’s the same. I like it that way.

Birmingham Stages: I know that every region of the country has great music, but I’ve always felt so privileged to come from the South. The fact that Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta are all within easy driving distance is still amazing to me.

Barrier: The ace up our sleeve is the religious element – the shadow of the Cross. Everybody in our area was either forced here from slavery or prison camps or they were seeking some type of religious freedom. We have a weird mix of God and the devil in this area that you may not have in the rest of the country. Everything here is about life after death. Soul music comes from the grave and the Second Line in New Orleans – that jazz music comes from the grave and rejoicing while you follow that coffin. That’s a special thing we have in the South.

Birmingham Stages: What are your band’s plans in the coming weeks and months?

Barrier: I’m trying to be patient. A year ago, we had 14 gigs in Japan, a 21-date tour in Europe and two tours out West. We had to cancel every one of them. Last April, we hit the hard lockdown and in my primitive mind I thought we’d sit tight for two weeks and it would all blow over. I kept constantly trying to set things up but they weren’t going to happen. I’m finally just letting them come to me. I want go west this summer so bad, but I’m going to try not to force it.

The Pine Hill Haints will release The Song Companion of a Lonestar Cowboy on Friday, May 14. For more information, visit www.thepinehillhaints.com.


By Brent Thompson

Photo courtesy of the artist

Nashville is beset with talented singer/songwriters and Country artists, but SWEETTALKER is adding another quiver to the arrows of Music City. The quintet – founded by Ryan Pattengale and David Brown – offers an updated take on Pop and Psychedelia a-la ELO, The Beatles, Queen and Pink Floyd. The band’s new EP, Paradise, reveals a group that reveres its influences but is not beholden to them. Produced by Matt Goldman (Underoath, Casting Crowns) and recorded in numerous locations, Paradise accomplishes the difficult task of sounding fresh and familiar at the same time. The studio pairing of the band with Goldman results in a sonically-satisfying experience  that is icing on the cake of songs like “Tomorrow” and “Goodbye.” Bottom line – SWEETTALKER gives us even more reason to seek out live music once the cloud of COVID-19 lifts.