Emerging fully-formed from the desolate heart of Central Florida, Roadkill Ghost Choir make unsettling, powerful American rock, Tom Petty by way of Radiohead and Cormac McCarthy. Set against Kiffy Meyer’s ghostly steel pedal, singer and main songwriter Andrew Shepard triumphantly conjures an allegorical American landscape of drifters, specters and violent saints. Andrew’s brothers Maxx (drums) and Zach (bass) Shepard round out the rhythm section, and Stephen Garza handles lead guitar.
The band released their debut EP ‘Quiet Light’ in 2013 in the midst of a touring run that saw them opening for Band of Horses and 2013 festival slots at New York’s Governor’s Ball, Austin City Limits and Shaky Knees in Atlanta, GA. In January 2014 the band was invited to perform on the David Letterman Show, where they performed standout track “Beggar’s Guild.” Their debut full-length, “In Tongues,” recorded in Athens, Georgia and in their home studio in Deland, Florida with producer Doug Boehm, will be out August 19. The band will be touring supporting the new album, including stops at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.
Unexplained phenomena of all kinds can be attributed to magic. Music is among those marvels. When a group of unrelated individuals of different backgrounds gets together and locks into a sonic unity, there must be some sort of mysticism at work. That’s the only way to properly explain it. The members of Nashville’s All Them Witches would agree too. That energy even courses through their moniker, which unsurprisingly comes from Roman Polanski’s 1968 masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby.
“The name can be interpreted in many different ways,” explains singer and bassist Michael Parks, Jr. “It could be a person’s view on what the forces of good and evil are or even how we interact with each other as human beings. There’s a little bit of witchcraft in everybody’s life. Just waking up is pretty magical—you’re alive another day. In terms of the music, we’re so loose, and that’s where the magic comes from. There’s no controlling factor. We do exactly what comes naturally. We go in a room without any idea about what will happen, get in the groove, and it works. That’s supernatural.”
All Them Witches began conjuring up music together in 2012. Foregoing theater school to focus on songwriting, Parks traded New Mexico for Nashville at 19-years-old. The Shreveport, Louisiana native met drummer Robby Staebler while the two shared a shift at a “corporate hippie store”. Robby showed Parks some music he and guitarist Ben McLeod had written, and it inspired the singer to jam—which he adds, “I usually never do. It made sense though”.
Adding Robby’s longtime friend Allan Van Cleave to the fold on Fender Rhodes, All Them Witches cut their debut Our Mother Electricity. Almost immediately after, they began working on its follow-up 2013’s Lightning At The Door. Recorded live in a matter of days with producer and engineer Andy Putnam, the boys tapped into a distinct energy, mustering bluesy soul, Southern swagger, and thunderous hard rock all at once.
The first single “When God Comes Back” swings from a Delta-dipped groove into a striking riff juxtaposed with Parks’ transfixing delivery. It’s as hypnotic as it is heavy.
“Sometimes, I get visions, for lack of a better word, that lead to songs,” the frontman admits. “I’ll be doing a mundane task at work, walking somewhere in the woods, or driving, and I’ll get these narrative flashes in my head. Personal experiences play into those narratives. This song is about our egos coming to break us down and destroy everything. We try to govern each other and turn the only landscape we have to live in into a parking lot. There’s no room for anybody. So, when God comes back, he’s going to be really mad.”
Ultimately, everything comes back to that certain magic for All Them Witches. “Not to sound too much like hippie, but I hope everybody can ride our vibe,” Parks leaves off. “We’re very simple people doing something we really love. We have such a short amount of time on this earth. Everybody should be doing what they love. If there’s a message here, it’s that.”
It’s a short drive from Nashville, TN, to Muscle Shoals, AL: 125 miles, or about two hours if your foot’s on the leaden side, and you’ve left one musical Mecca for another. Thanks to Nashville instrumental duo Steelism, though, that gap is bridged in the time it takes to listen to a track. Comprised of guitarist Jeremy Fetzer, pedal steel player Spencer Cullum and backed by some of Nashville’s finest young musicians, Steelism blends an eclectic array of vintage and modern influences to create instrumental music that truly sounds like nothing else.
Though Steelism is new to the music scene, Cullum and Fetzer are not, having backed artists like Wanda Jackson, Johnny Fritz, Rayland Baxter and Andrew Combs. The two met while touring the U.K. with Nashville songstress Caitlin Rose, quickly bonding over their shared love for classic movie soundtrack composers like Ennio Morricone and ‘60s instrumental acts like Booker T. and the M.G.s, The Ventures and Pete Drake. Writing together between sound checks, the duo realized it was time for the sidemen to become frontmen, and Steelism was born.
The duo’s full-length debut 615 to FAME releases via Single Lock Records (founded by Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes, John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Will Trapp), with marketing and distribution from Thirty Tigers, on September 16, 2014. Half recorded at Muscle Shoals’ historic FAME Studios, where Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding all tracked hits, 615 to FAME was produced by Fetzer and Cullum with co-production from Ben Tanner, and contributions from longtime Nashville-based collaborators Jon Radford (drums) and Michael Rinne (bass). Featuring 10 original instrumentals and one cover, 615 to FAME announces Steelism as one of Nashville’s most exciting new acts.
Aaron Mortenson and Jay Rutherford set out to make their debut Los Colognes album in the mold of the great JJ Cale records of the ‘70s. Working Together is parched desert country blues at its best—full of relationships gone south, one-liners that make you think twice, and slow-burning boogie woogie. After a name change and three years tightening their sound and soaking up the remaining strains of classic country music in Nashville, Los Colognes’ Working Together reflects the simple but straight-on lyricism of John Prine, the unhurried grooves of Cale, with a touch Mark Knopfler’s mid-‘80s Dire Straits polish. “Just stay on the train until you feel like you got enough,” explains Mort on the band’s recording studio philosophy. The duo would bring in different players on each session, then take the tapes home to work on them some more, blending in a “soupy, random quality,” says Jay. Though Working Together deals with the unraveling of one particular relationship, Los Colognes have distilled things here to their universal core. After a decades-long musical partnership—writing 500 shitty songs together, Mort jokes, and fully finding their sound—this is the good stuff.