Today we’re going to look at three very different local bands and what they are up to. I saw Dixieghost recently at Scruffy City Hall on the 6 O’Clock Swerve and Jubal opened for Blond Bone at their CD release party at Flow. Most weeks in Knoxville feature more great music than any one person could hear. I’m told we are different in that way – that similar-sized cities don’t have the music scene we enjoy.
If true, I think part of the reason must be because so many people nurture live music – from radio stations which play local music, to venue owners and music critics, there’s a lot of love and support for local music. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a hard life and that most of them can’t make much money at it.
Dixieghost has been together eight years and features, “original songs and vocal harmonies of Jason Hanna and Justin Nix,” along with (at least at this show) David Leventhal (banjo) and Seth Hopper (fiddle). I interviewed Jason recently on the heels of his winning the “What’s the Big Idea” contest. He’s a busy guy.
The band, previously focused on a more electric sound with a folk-rock vibe has in more recent years moved toward a strings-only approach which, with the banjo (and mandolin when they have it) moves the sound in a more bluegrass direction, thought with a definite progressive twist. The harmonies have captured my attention the last couple of times I’ve heard them. I’ve included a fun video made for their song “Clermont” off their July 2015 release, “Wine and Spirits.”
Jubal consists of Taylor Kress and Bonnie Simmons. Taylor plays guitar and occasional harmonica, while both sing and their harmonies are what sets them apart. Bonnie’s pure, sometimes ethereal voice paired with Taylor’s deep, character-driven sound combine to form a very compelling sound. They released their first CD, “Bloodroot,” last summer, as well. With sparse production and traditional lyrics, the delicate harmonies are front-and-center, as they should be.
Blond Bones first came to my attention with their soundtrack to the theatrical production of “Princess Cuts.” The sound was delicate and troubling as befits the context of the play. Their new EP, “Few of Days” features a full band line-up as opposed to the two-man acoustic sound on the soundtrack. The result is a much wider dynamic range and deeper textures to the solidly written songs.
Christian Barnett and Joe Rebrovick, the mainstays of the band each bring a background in performance to the band. Christian is currently a student in the UT jazz program, while Joe holds a degree in theater. It’s clear from the opening notes of “Few of Days,” that lyrically, the songs are solid. The first song, “Daniel and Lorraine,” starts with the line, “I dreamed I saw the hands of God dealing drugs down by the depot. The music ranges from reverb-filled shimmering rock in the opening number to the quiet desperation of “Tula’s Song,” the final track: “cold malt liquor, amphetamine, siren sounds, ran aground.”
I’ll leave you with some video samples of the bands to give you the flavor of their music. Make “buy local” apply to local musicians. They need and deserve your support. You can also catch all of them locally. Blond Bones performs today at Knoxtacular at the Bijou. Jubal and Blond Bones will perform at the “From the Living Room Series,” March 26. Blond Bones performs April 26 at Crafty Bastard and Jubal performs at Rhythm N Blooms both Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10.
A note on the photographs: I had no easy way to shoot Blond Bones, resulting in photographs shot from outside. As a result you see the band and the reflection of the street, particularly in one of the shots. Artful or awful? I’ll let you decide.