Matt Andrews

Review: Avett Brothers @ Sloss Furnace

Hailing from Concord, NC – “a progressive city rooted in families, traditional values, southern hospitality and charm” – The Avett Brothers (only two brothers here: Seth and Scott) sailed into Birmingham, AL to showcase their unique blend of alt-country slamgrass on a mid-April’s night at the historic Sloss Furnace. With their boot-stomping, hi-lonesome/Appalachian sound mixed with impressive, earthy harmonies and texture-rich interplay, this night promised to be a culmination of brotherhood, heart and southern-fried fun.

[All Photos by Megan Case]

The quartet plays entirely acoustic: banjo, steel string guitar, cello and stand-up bass. The band’s camaraderie shows in each pluck and golden melody. The simplicity and minimalism of their stage setup is part of their draw and charm. No lasers, no fog machines, no light show, no BS. This is an enormously talented group, almost alarmingly so. Blood runs deep, as does the compassion, love and tenderness.

Tears can fall, as they do in their warm-hearted and moving performance of Murder In The City. This song is a glimpse of the true feeling and amour that exists in the Avett’s inner circle. The key lyric being “always remember, there is nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.” Blood does run deep. READ ON for more of Matt’s review of the Avett Brothers…

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HT Spotlight: Alexander “Skip” Spence

Singer/songwriter Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane first saw him in the crowd from the stage at The Matrix in San Francisco back in 1965. The Airplane was in the midst of dismissing their present drummer and he needed someone to fill the spot and keep time for his band, who had yet to take flight. To Balin, he had such an unusual look, moddish-shag haircut and mutton chop sideburns. Spence, who had very little drumming experience but had jammed with The Quicksilver Messenger Service previously, was sent home with a pair of drumsticks and told to practice. The Airplane needed someone to play drums on their upcoming first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. The sessions went swimmingly and the band’s path was seemingly set.

After the sessions were complete, RCA booked the band to tour and promote the album. Unannounced, Spence split to Mexico with a couple of girlfriends. Members of the Airplane searched for him, but alas he wasn’t around. He wasn’t even in the country. Needless to say, a replacement came in the form of Spencer Dryden and he went on to fill the role. This was a sign of things to come in the unfortunate and bizarre story of Alexander “Skip” Spence. READ ON for more about Skip Spence…

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Review: Keller Williams @ Variety Playhouse

This wasn’t Guitar Center or Musicians Warehouse or any of the other large corporate owned multi-instrument behemoth, this was your friendly neighborhood guitar shop. With a dazzling array of guitars hung to a basic pegboard backdrop, a cash register, “No Stairway To Heaven” – an ode to Wayne’s World – and “Shoplifters Will Die” signs, the stage was set for America’s favorite “one man jam-band” to take the stage.

[All photos by Megan Case]

The lights fell at 8:45 p.m. and Keller’s Guitar Shop & Clinic opened for business. Its chief proprietor, Keller Williams, ambled to center stage, with guitar in hand and a goofy grin on his face as a flurry of notes reverberated out of the Variety Playhouse’s speakers. Perhaps the most lovable and likeable acoustic axe man around, Keller’s unique sound and presentation are his hallmark; his clever, cheerful and upbeat grooves are his trademark. The sold-out show seemed relatively sparse when Keller started up, but slowly and surely filled in.

The first time I saw Keller back in ’99, I was absolutely blown away. He is able to combine his virtuosic guitar playing with bass lines, drum fills, beats, horns and keyboards looped through delay devices, which creates a thick pillow to either play, sing or solo over. The results are truly unique and often times sublime. Keller’s show on the last day of January in Atlanta was much of the same and that’s a good thing.

READ ON for more of Matt’s review of K-Dub at the Variety…

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Review: Perpetual Groove @ The Variety

While making our way to the Variety Playhouse to bear witness to Perpetual Groove’s sold-out show in Atlanta last Saturday evening, I was struck by the flurry of activity taking place outside the venue. Drum circles, blown glass vendors and teens from area high schools greeted us as we approached the front door. It had been a few years since I last caught the band and was honestly unaware how much their fanbase had grown.

[All Photos by Megan Case]

Located roughly 70 miles from the band’s homebase in Athens, Saturday’s show was somewhat of a homecoming. Taking the stage just after 9 p.m. and showering each other at center stage with talcum powder, the band manned their respective positions and we settled in for three-hour-plus show.

READ ON for more of Matt’s review and Megan’s photos…

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Spotlight: Alan “The Blind Owl” Wilson

Deaths always come in threes, don’t they? This was certainly the case with three of the most prominent blues-rock artists of the ’60s. Janis Joplin, 27, had just been found in her hotel room at the Landmark Motor Hotel; her Southern Comfort-soaked voice silenced. Jimi Hendrix – also 27 – whose timeless electro-blues licks were already legendary, had suspiciously choked to death two weeks prior. Sadly, beating both to the great beyond was another 27-year-old blues-rock musician, Alan “The Blind Owl” Wilson of the band Canned Heat who died exactly two weeks before Jimi on September 3.

You may ask, who is the this person I deign categorize with these two legends? “The Blind Owl” was a different breed altogether. He wasn’t the showman that the other two were, nor did he strive to be, but his dedication, love and commitment to the blues was every bit as strong. Time hasn’t been as kind to him as it has been to others of the era who passed before their time. In this day and age he’s largely forgotten.

READ ON to find out more about “The Blind Owl”…

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Review: Rose Hill Drive @ Smith’s Olde Bar

With a driving backbeat, rapid fire and precise guitar and thunderous bass, Boulder’s Rose Hill Drive stormed the stage at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta on Friday, the seventh of November. This three-piece power trio knows how to rock and they rock hard. This up and coming group showed they have the guts and cojones to unabashedly electrify much larger arenas, and if this showing was in any way indicative of the powers of which they are capable, they will be playing to much larger crowds nationally soon.

Hailing from Boulder, CO, Rose Hill Drive is somewhat of a throw back to ’70s era hard rock. Blistering guitar solos and tight group playing are their hallmarks and their strong suite. Touring on the strength of their recent release, Moon Is the New Earth, the band knows they have what it takes to make it in the cut throat rock and roll industry.

With a no-frills stage set-up, it was obvious there would be no sideshow, no deflection. The music and the music alone was the appetizer, entree and dessert. Their set was composed of originals from their recent and previous releases, as well as a few covers of classics like Who Knows by Hendrix and the Zeppelin rough and tumble crunch rocker Communication Breakdown. Very little artist and audience dialogue added to the mystique of the band. The show was workman-like in its delivery and production.

READ ON for more on Rose Hill Drive in Atlanta…

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Review: Matisyahu @ Variety Playhouse

A picturesque late fall evening’s cool air greeted us we hustled through Atlanta’s Historic 5 Points to the Variety Playhouse. Inside the jam-packed venue, an eclectic and diverse crowd’s collective pulse raced in anticipation for their Hasidic hero to storm the stage. As the lights went down and the first strains of musical notes swirled from the large mounted box speakers, the crowd patiently awaited Matisyahu to emerge from behind the curtain.

Once he hit the stage an instantaneous electricity filled the room and sparked the delight of its patrons. Long and lean of stature, Matisyahu gyrates and grooves to his band and then steps to the mike. He sings/croons/toasts/preaches/raps/beat-boxes to the razor sharp music as his band courses seamlessly through his repertoire. He seems at equal ease singing from a praise hymnal or toasting with his Eek-A-Mouse-sounding vocal delivery or his other worldly beat-boxing. At points in the show it’s as if his voice is a gold coin, locked away in a velvet box, at other points it’s right there with you, front and center. He can be forceful with an urgent message or quiet and dreamy-and you believe him because it’s convincing and authoritative.

The first set was filled with music from Matis’ upcoming album, Light, as well as other favorites, such as the opener, See To Sea and was generally a more mellow showcase and a yin to the yang of the second set. The undeniably explosive second set opened with a Close My Eyes that propelled the band through the more upbeat and funky repertoire.

“You got no water-how you gonna survive?”

Matisyahu’s band is locked in and tight. They would be an amazing band without Matisyahu’s considerable talent. Guitarist Aaron Dugan’s quick, adept and prodigious fret work is prominently displayed throughout the show as well as Rob Marscher’s tasteful and dramatic synth and keyboard work.

READ ON for more from Matisyahu at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse…

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Review: JJ Grey & Mofro @ The Variety

Atlanta’s Matt and Kelly Andrews, of Musical Stew Daily fame, eat, drink and breathe live music. Please welcome them to the Hidden Track posse to represent the ATL with reviews and news from the Big Peach.

In Atlanta’s Little 5 Points, the heart and soul of live music is located squarely at The Variety Playhouse. Showcasing an eclectic mix of musical talent nightly, The Variety has hosted an impressive roster of talents through the years. Phish, Widespread Panic, Lee “Scratch” Perry and others have graced the stage of The Variety in the past. On Saturday the 11th, they hosted yet another favorite of mine, Jacksonville, Florida’s JJ Grey & Mofro.

Sweet tea, blackberry cobbler, ox-tail soup, hominy grits, mosquitoes, fried catfish and hush puppies are all synonymous with Jacksonville’s culinary life and culture, the birthplace and home of Mofro. Molasses sweet and thick, Otis Redding inspired “front porch soul.” The music is gritty and tough while remaining sweet and inspired. Music with a cause, to preserve the land and life that JJ Grey so obviously holds sacred. An urgent message delivered with a steady groove and southern manners. The simplicity of yesteryear is sadly fading before his eyes as he implores us to see Florida through those same eyes– likening it to “watching someone you love die slow.”

READ ON for more of Matt and Kelly’s JJ Grey and Mofro review…

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