Recorded following a period of “you gotta be f#$kin kidding me, Tennessee Stiffs’ new third album, Dearly Departed, is a cautionary tale of rock & roll—an epic, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about a beleaguered band in the Americana trenches, alternately squealing and sputtering down the Interstate on a good-intentions-paved tour to hell and back.
While some of Dearly Departed is embellished for dramatic effect, much of it is a straight autobiography. As the burgeoning Americana outfit prepared for the release of its 2018 sophomore album, the aptly titled Thirty Pieces, Tennessee Stiffs were lured by a shady Judas goat of a record label and PR firm. On the eve of the band’s promo tour for the record, the company declared bankruptcy, was dissolved as a legal entity and vanished into the ether, making off with a large sum of the band’s money and leaving them with no tour support. Penniless and in shock, the Stiffs pulled together best as they could and pressed on.
“We were young and naive in many ways,” says singer and mandolin player Cara Jane Sadler. “We took a chance—for the first time, we handed the torch to someone else, and they disappeared. It was a rough tour to say the least, four of us driving across the country in a thirdhand church van, trying to make the best of a bad situation. By the end of it, we were all just broken. Dearly Departed is a result of that.”
The Sadlers are joined on the sprawling, 18-track Dearly Departed by Tennesee Stiffs’ longtime, road-tested rhythm section, bassist Casey Kuznieski and drummer Adrian “A.V.” Voorhies, as well as new member Sarah Millenary on fiddle. The Stiffs—who hail not from the Volunteer State but that other roots-music Mecca, Austin, TX—dip their bucket deep into the well of American music on their new album
Glide is premiering the harrowing and theatrical “Imposter” from Tennessee Stiffs that recalls the big stage Canadian collective rock of Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene with the roots flair of Of Monsters and Men. The band conjures an anthemic prowess where big hooks and the yearning for big choruses come to the forefront, making Tennessee Stiffs an electrifying addition to Austin’s risk-taking live music scene.
“Imposter” is a song about success and the negative feelings that come with it. I’m sure there are people out there who achieve something and feel deep down in their guts that they don’t deserve success. There are people who actively disrupt their progress. This song dives into the mental gymnastics that the human mind will go through to keep itself caged and safe. But we all deserve to be happy and content. “Imposter” addresses that, and also the doubt, the sabotage, and the active push against our own nature. When you start separating the motivations in the chorus, it represents the tiny voice of doubt that continually creeps into the back of your mind. There’s no escaping the human condition, and the result is one of the most upbeat, bittersweet tunes we’ve ever written,” says Ethan Lee Sadler.