Review: Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros.

By Brent Thompson

Thanks to its members’ various touring ensembles (The Dead, Dead & Company, Furthur and Phil Lesh & Friends among others) – and a steady stream of live shows that continue to be released – no batch of songs has lived on like The Grateful Dead’s catalog. So, it would be understandable to overlook or even discard the latest addition to the fold, Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros. Live In Colorado Vol. 2 (Third Man Records). And while the song titles will ring familiar – “Terrapin Station Suite,” “Brokedown Palace” and “Ripple” among them – the arrangements are fresh and Weir’s backing band (Don Was, Jay Lane and Jeff Chimenti) breathes new life into these well-worn staples. With respect to covers,  Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” slides nicely into “Eyes Of The World” along with a rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” If you aren’t a Deadhead, this album probably won’t change your mind. If you are an existing fan, this album is a very worthy addition to your (likely vast) Dead collection.


Concert Shots: Goose in Atlanta 10-2-22

By Brent Thompson

Goose wrapped up a two-night stand at Atlanta’s Pullman Yards on October 2. Over the course of two sets, the band performed “Yeti,” “Arise” and “California Magic” alongside cover versions of “Pumped Up Kicks,” “No Rain” and “A Fifth of Beethoven.”







Road Trip Recap: AmericanaFest 2022

By Brent Thompson

Nashville rolled out the red carpet for the annual American Music Festival (AmericanaFest) from September 13-17. Each day, the city’s famed nightclubs, rooftop bars, restaurants and private event spaces were filled with hours of music. Defined by its indefinability, Americana music offers up an array of genres including rock, pop, country, blues and bluegrass. Once again, we were there to document the sights and sounds of music’s greatest week.

Hank Williams, Jr. & Dan Auerbach


Molly Tuttle


49 Winchester


Nikki Lane & Joshua Hedley


Jim Lauderdale


Robert’s Western World


Robert’s Western World


The Concert & The Classroom: Catching up with John Paul White

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Alysse Gafkjen

In addition to being a recording and touring musician, John Paul White is co-founder of Florence-based label Single Lock Records. These days, the singer/songwriter has added yet another endeavor to his already busy career – teaching at his alma mater, University of North Alabama.

“I’m teaching Songwriting & Artist Career Development this semester,” he says. “I’m artist-in-residence and I’m teaching a couple of classes and I’m still touring and still writing and still doing Single Lock Records. I got a call from the dean, who’s a friend of mine, and I said, ‘You might be knocking on the door at exactly the right time.’ I’ve toyed with the idea for a long time and I’ve always wanted to come back to my alma mater and give back. It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, but I can distinctly remember wishing there were people with real experiences in the industry that could’ve given me insight at the time. It’s incredibly rewarding. I’m still trying to figure out the balancing act of touring and writing going along with this.” On October 22, White will perform at Alabaster Jubilee at 7 p.m.

White initially forged his career in a music business that looked far different from today’s industry. However, he knows that teaching aspiring artists these days means including streaming, social media and other modern topics into his curriculum.

“As much as I don’t want to,” he admits. “I’m from a generation that didn’t do any of that stuff. It was pretty blissful – just creating and touring and creating and touring. Now, we’ve learned through Single Lock Records, it’s just part of it. Whether you like it or not, you have to actively think of a way to sell yourself every day – if you don’t, you get left behind. I’m really glad that in the earlier stages of my career I did not have to do all that stuff. Some artists love it and they thrive because they enjoy doing it.”

Speaking of another modern reality, White mentions that Covid’s shockwaves are still being felt among touring musicians.

“I think we haven’t really felt the effects of it yet,” he cautions. “Now that people are touring again, people aren’t buying tickets the way they used to. If they are buying tickets, every single artist is touring at the same time trying to make up for lost time. So, more and more artists are realizing, ‘I’m not going to get back out of the hole.’ We all, as a community, actively check on each other. I have no data on this, but I would venture to say that 85 to 90 percent of musicians are struggling. A lot of people are timid about going into a crowded rock club shoulder-to-shoulder with people when you’ve been trained to keep your distance. Some people don’t want to do that and some people don’t want to follow Covid protocols – they’re on one side of the coin or the other.”

Never one to sit still, White recently found himself performing with a symphony accompaniment. In April, he will perform in Birmingham at Alys Stephens Center with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

“I have to give credit to Daniel Stevens, who’s the conductor at UNA,” White says in an enthusiastic tone. “It was his brainstorm to have the Shoals Symphony play with me. Here, at Norton Auditorium in Florence, we had two performances. My band sits in front of the orchestra – it’s overwhelming and it’s hard to concentrate on your song lyrics when this gorgeous symphony is happening behind you. The Alabama Symphony got wind of it and reached out and said, ‘Can we bring it down here and you do it with our folks?’ I said, ‘That was the dream in the first place.’ Who knows? Maybe we can take this around the country and this will be the first step toward it.”

Five-Brain Monster: Catching up with Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass

By Brent Thompson

Photo courtesy of the artist

“We built the whole thing just a couple of people at a time. We’re lucky that a lot of our fans have become our friends,” Greensky Bluegrass Dobroist Anders Beck says. With over two decades of recording and touring under its belt, Greensky’s grassroots style to which Beck refers has served the band well. Earlier this year, the quintet – Beck, Dave Bruzza, Paul Hoffman, Michael Bont and Mike Devol – released Stress Dreams (Big Blue Zoo Records), a 13-track effort featuring collaborative songwriting. On Friday, August 26, Greensky Bluegrass will perform at Land Aid at Avondale Brewing Company. Recently, Beck spoke with us by phone from the band’s tour stop in Charlottesville, Va.

Southern Stages: Anders, thanks for your time. We are really enjoying Stress Dreams. How did the album’s songs take shape? Were these newer compositions, older ones or a mixture of both?

Anders Beck: For the most part, they were written in that time leading into Covid and a lot during Covid. So, they haven’t been around for that long. We made that record during the quarantine days which was interesting in trying to get a bunch of people together in the studio to make an album – we all live in different places. One of the things we learned is how to communicate in different ways – Zoom meetings and things like that. The way the band writes – someone brings a song and it’s usually pretty bare bones and we work on it together as a band and take it from a singer/songwriter type of song into a Greensky song. That’s our process a lot of time. This album was a little different because we all contributed songs. Our bass player (Devol), he writes differently – he orchestrates the whole thing because he’s a classically-trained cellist – he wrote the song “Stress Dreams.” He came to us and said, “These are the parts – play this” and that’s not improvisational music.

Southern Stages: Did Devol’s pre-orchestration of the song sit well with the other members?

Beck: It was great and it was fun. It was really interesting and we know him well enough to see his vision through. He’s got an incredible musical mind, so it was really fun. The song I contributed is called “Monument” and I wrote it with a friend of mine, Chris Gelbuda. I had that song in my head for a while in bits and pieces. He’s a writer in Nashville that came in and helped me dot the I’s and cross the T’s on my ideas.

Southern Stages: While creating in remote fashion had to be challenging, I assume the fact that you’ve played together for so long eased the process.

Beck: It’s a five-brain monster and it’s really special to be part of it. We’re back on tour now – this summer, we did weekend dates where we’d all fly in and play festivals. It’s great because you can be home, but once we get back on tour you see the improvisational beast that the band is – there’s a click that happens musically. I’m not saying the weekend dates don’t have that thing, but there’s just something different when we start to play even just three or four nights in a row.

Southern Stages: Some artists applaud the current musical climate in the age of streaming, satellite radio, Youtube and other modern outlets and some say it makes it difficult to be found among the crowd. How do you feel about the current state of the industry?

Beck: I feel great about it, personally. I believe in our band and the music that we make and the more ways people can find out about us, the better. People talk about the artists not getting paid for streams and I get that, but for me it’s about the live show. I want people to get to our music however they can so they can come see us play live, however that happens.

Southern Stages: Even though your band is known for improvisational music, how does a song stay fresh to you after you have played it literally hundreds of times?

Beck: Here’s a weird answer – I change. A good song is the same song, but it’s written well enough that the song means different things to me over the course of my life. It’s the same words and the same melody, but I’m still learning lessons about it from Paul’s lyrics.

Greensky Bluegrass will perform with the Sam Bush Band at Land Aid – benefitting Freshwater Land Trust – at Avondale Brewing on Friday, August 26. Advance tickets to the 6 p.m. show are $33 and can be purchased at 

Review: Drive-By Truckers Bring It Back Home

By Brent Thompson
Having released three politically-fueled albums – American Band, The Unraveling and The New OK, Drive-By Truckers have taken it back to Muscle Shoals on the band’s 14th studio album, Welcome 2 Club XIII [ATO Records]. Named for a dive bar that frontmen Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley haunted back in the day, the album’s material reflects on youth and the road on tracks including “The Driver,” “Wilder Days” and the title track. But a lack of overt, political commentary doesn’t mean the band has softened its sound or stance – there’s still plenty of fire to be found here with a slower burn.

Celebrate People: A Conversation with Steve Earle

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

In a career spanning nearly 40 years, Steve Earle has released more than 20 albums while also finding time to be an actor, playwright and author. On May 27, the three-time Grammy award winner will release Jerry Jeff [New West Records], a tribute album to one of his musical heroes, Jerry Jeff Walker. Jerry Jeff is the latest installment in a series of albums that includes Earle’s tributes to Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and his late son, Justin Townes Earle. On Wednesday, June 1, Steve Earle & The Dukes will perform at Decatur’s Princess Theatre. Recently, Earle spoke with us via Zoom from his New York City home.

Southern Stages: Steve, thanks for your time. We are really enjoying Jerry Jeff. At the onset, did you envision the Townes, Guy and Jerry Jeff albums as a series?

Steve Earle: No. The Townes one was 10 years after he passed away – it was a little distance. The Guy one was almost as soon as Guy as he was gone. The Jerry Jeff thing started at his memorial service, so I probably started thinking about whether I’d do a Jerry Jeff one around the time of the Guy record. I didn’t make my decision until he was actually gone because I just wasn’t going to think about it. I’m an old hippie and (spiritual teacher) Ram Dass was my guru – I knew him and he wrote about aging and death. I got to meet him when I was 60 and I knew him the last five or six years of his life and that helped because I was losing people by that time. I’m trying to celebrate people rather than mourn in the classical sense. The J.T. record was the same thing. It was the only thing I knew to do – it wasn’t fun and it was painful. This record was a lot more fun in some ways. I’m on Guy Clark’s first record and I knew Townes and I met him very shortly after I heard one of his records for the first time. Jerry Jeff was a big star in Texas when I was first getting out on my own and playing and I played a lot of these songs in bars. Everybody in my band grew up playing these songs – I’ve got three Texans in the band. I’m tired of making them – I want to make a record of my songs now. I’ve been writing songs – I’m writing a musical of Tender Mercies with (playwright) Daisy Foote and that’s where the songs I’ve been writing have been going.

Southern Stages: I didn’t mention the J.T. album because I’m sure it’s a sensitive subject.

Earle: It’s not part of the same thing – the Justin thing was its own deal. The Jerry Jeff, Townes and Guy things are definitely a set and they’re all on the same record label. My guess is you’ll be able to get them as a set very shortly, probably around Christmas.

Southern Stages: How did you sift through Jerry Jeff’s catalog and select songs for the album?

Earle: The criteria was his songs. He was known for interpreting other peoples’ songs, but I’d already done all the Guy songs on the Guy record. “Mr. Bojangles” can overshadow everything that he did, so it was about people that didn’t know learning what a great songwriter he was. It goes back to the beginning of his career and goes pretty much through the peak of it. I wasn’t going to record “Sangria Wine” because I’m sober and I can’t let myself do that – it just doesn’t feel right. I used to sing it every night.

Southern Stages: On a project like Jerry Jeff, how do you place your own stamp on someone else’s material while retaining the integrity of the original songs?

Earle: I think what I thought it was doing was emulating the records pretty closely. It comes out, surprisingly enough, feeling like me because I wanted to be Jerry Jeff Walker more than anything else in the world at one point in my life. Jerry Jeff Walker is part of my DNA as a performer, probably more than Guy and Townes were. Jerry Jeff was by far the best performer of all of his peers. The only guy that was as good as Jerry Jeff on stage at that moment in Austin was Rusty Wier and Jerry Jeff knew it. People that are great performers and master communicators are not as common as one would think. Rock & roll has only produced a few like Bruce Springsteen and James Brown. Jerry Jeff – I knew people that didn’t like him and I lived in Greenwich Village for 17 years – but everybody invariably said that the best performer on the street when Jerry Jeff was in the Village was Jerry Jeff Walker. I saw him in Austin – he could get too loaded to play, but when he was on it was riveting.

Southern Stages: Given the large catalog of songs you’ve accumulated, how do you comprise your set lists these days?

Earle: It’s hard. We won’t play the whole Jerry Jeff record, but we’ll play a big chunk of it and we’ll probably open the show with it. I’m putting the show together right now. The last time we went out was last summer. After not going out for two years, it was kind of weird because we had made two records, so I had to have a Ghosts of West Virginia section and a J.T. section and we did four songs from each. I also wanted to play songs that I knew people wanted to hear because we missed them and they missed us and we just wanted to do that. So, we’ll start out with a lot of Jerry Jeff Walker songs and then we’re going to play all the stuff I play so I can get out of there alive – that’s just the way it is at this point.

Southern Stages: Speaking of the songs you play to get out alive, how do songs stay fresh and relevant to you after you’ve played them a thousand times?

Earle: I don’t  understand the mentality of not wanting to play stuff. The thing that people know you for the best – why would you not want to play that? That’s never made any sense to me. “Copperhead Road” became a line dance and I missed that culturally because I was on drugs and in jail when that happened, which was a few years after. When it came out, it could not get played on country radio – it was too weird for them and they wouldn’t play it. Later on, when the line dance craze started, there came about a “Copperhead Road” line dance and it was done every night in every dance hall where people danced to country music. The line dance craze died out for the most part, but not “Copperhead Road” and it’s still done every night in any country disco. Somebody asked me if that bothered me and I said, “Hell no – it’s like I wrote ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’ – that’s immortality, that’s what that fucking is.” I play “Copperhead Road,” “The Galway Girl” and “Guitar Town” and I’m fortunate that I’ve had songs throughout my career that people find important. The job is to let people know they’re not alone – that everybody feels bad and everybody feels good. I never understood the Andy Kaufman school of, “I’m smarter than you. If I think it’s funny and you don’t, that just means you’re stupid.” I never understood that. I play things for people and if they don’t work the first couple of times I play them, then I don’t play them anymore. Guy Clark told me that songs aren’t finished until you play them for people. There were only two critiques from Guy – one was “good work” and the other was “needs work” [laughs].

Southern Stages: The music business now is vastly different from the one you entered nearly 40 years ago. As an artist, how do you view the current climate?

Earle: There’s a lot of stuff out there. The good news is anybody can make a record and the bad news is anybody can make a record. There’s more shit to wade through. I just feel lucky that I came along in the ’80s when there was a lot of money being spent. I was never going to sell millions of records – I was too hard-headed and still am, but I was allowed to develop and audience that I’ve kept. I didn’t know what to tell Justin by the time he started doing it and the business has changed a lot since Justin started. I don’t try to tell people what’s country and what’s not because a lot of people thought what I was doing wasn’t country when I came along. Those guys on the radio now, they decide what’s country. In 1986 – when I had the number one album on the Billboard country album charts, I decided what was country.

Steve Earle & The Dukes will perform at Decatur’s Princess Theatre on Wednesday, June 1. For ticket information, please visit



Banditos Return to Birmingham for 5-21-22 Saturn Performance

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Citizen Wayne Kane

Banditos is a Nashville-based band with Birmingham roots. On Friday, the quintet will release its third studio album, Right On, the follow-up to 2017’s Visionland. Produced by Jordan Lehning (Caitlin Rose, Joshua Hedley), the songs on Right On have a common theme of inclusivity and shared emotions. On Saturday, May 21, the band will perform at Saturn. Advance tickets to the 18+ show are $15 and can be purchased at

Preview: Texas duo Plank & Scrappy bring “Motel Alabama” tour to Mobile

By Brent Thompson

Jeff Plankenhorn and Scrappy Jud Newcomb – stalwarts of Austin’s famed music scene – are currently taking their songs and stories through the South on the “Motel Alabama” tour. On Saturday, April 30The Peoples Room of Mobile will provide the ideal setting for Plank & Scrappy’s performance. In addition two their esteemed solo careers, the duo has been associated with Patty Griffin, Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Slaid Cleaves and Bob Schneider among many others. Advance tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $25 and can be purchased at