Now Playing: Guy Marshall

Country rock and honky-tonk outfit Guy Marshall rate as one of Knoxville’s best bands due in part to the caliber of their sidemen — talented players like lead guitarist Eric Griffin, or pedal steel/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Keeney. Yet the newest addition to the Marshall family will neither play nor sing so much as a single note on stage.

“We just got a new member, in the form of a business consulting manager,” enthuses Adam McNulty, who started Guy Marshall along with wife Sarrenna McNulty back in 2011. “We’re preparing to go out into the wide world. In the past, we’ve gone out and toured just a bit. But we’re preparing now to tour as a band a lot harder in 2017.

“We want to take the family group we’ve started in Knoxville, and create other family groups in other places.”

McNulty refers to the group of friends and followers who attend Guy Marshall performances as his “family group,” and it’s an apt phrase, in so many ways. The band was founded by a husband-wife duo, and named after Adam’s grandfather Guy Marshall Shirley, who loomed large as both a colorful family patriarch and in his encouragement of McNulty’s early love of bluegrass.

And there’s a familial sort of intimacy at Guy Marshall performances, a sense that Adam and Sarrenna, their soulful harmonizing the beating heart of the band’s sound, are sharing a special moment, a beautiful secret with everyone in the room.

Now McNulty wants to share that secret with the rest of the world. “We’ve been writing a lot as a band,” McNulty says. “Playing more venues is our goal, and we want to have a full album of work ready by the middle of the year, maybe an early fall release.

“These are all what-ifs, but that’s the plan right now.”

It hasn’t been all that long since Guy Marshall’s last (and first) release, The Depression Blues from June of last year. But because that record, as far as first records go, was so long in coming, McNulty says there’s been lots of change afoot as the band tackles new material, songs written in the wake of TDP.

“The way music goes with me is that the music I write changes about two years behind the music that I’m listening to,” McNulty says. “It takes a while for it to sink in. And the last few years, I’ve been listening to a lot of old country. So the songs that are coming out now have more traditional country influences, as opposed to the first record, which had more of a Neil Young, rock ‘n’ roll fell to it.”

McNulty has said in interviews past that the band’s earliest inclinations were toward bedrock country and mountain music, and that changed somewhat as he grew more comfortable incorporating his latter-day fondness for rock music into Guy Marshall’s songwriting. But a shift back toward more rural and southern influences had already begun prior to the release of The Depression Blues, as Marshall assimilated Keeney’s pedal steel, and took a turn toward honky tonk and outlaw country.

“Maybe the others would kick me for saying it, but our newest music definitely has a different feeling,” McNulty says. “And it’s a more country feeling.

“The last record had a singular feeling, and it had a lot of pedal steel, which helped give it a consistent feel. This next one will have that consistency, too, but in a whole different way.”

Guy Marshall will play Preservation Pub Thursday, Nov. 24 at 10 p.m.

Now Playing: Roman Reese and the Cardinal Sins

Despite being a full-time attorney, Knoxville singer, songwriter and bandleader Roman Reese says he finds plenty of time for writing songs, but not so much of it for the recording studio. Reese’s last project was 2009’s Listen Before Dialing with his backing band the Cardinal Sins, which came a full four years after his 2005 solo album Gritty City.

Of course, his situation is complicated not only by his own job and family obligations, but by those of his ‘mates in the Cardinal Sins, as well. “At one point, we were ready to record, and my drummer went to China for six months, so that slowed us down,” Reese laughs.

“We’ve got the material, and every day I think man, I’ve got to get to this. We may have double-album set if I’m not careful.”

Reese, who plays Preservation Pub Nov. 26, held forth recently on both his songwriting process, and the prospects for that next album.

On his inspirations: Reese says he relishes writing about social issues, but not so much the politics that surround them. “I don’t do politics,” he says. “I’m not a huge fan. But a lot of my most recent songs have been about social issues. Songs about welfare, a guy on death row. I don’t write a lot of love songs, and if I do write a love song, it’s from a sad perspective. I’m not a sappy love-song writer.”

On his time in the military: Reese served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Military Police Corps when he was deployed in 2004. “I’ve got lots of songs about war because of my time in the military,” he says. “But again, I don’t look at it from a political perspective. I’ve got one song on YouTube, ‘Get Your Pistols and Your Guns,’ about the realities of combat, and it’s got a George McGovern quote in it. But it’s still not really political.

“I’m not a huge fan of Toby Keith-type military songs. I try to present the good and bad of what it’s like. Most soldiers do believe they’re doing the right thing. But they also come home and face lots of problems.”

On being an attorney: Reese says his job provides plenty of fodder for songwriting. “I deal with a lot of people on welfare, and I’m not sure we’re doing it the best way we could be doing it. It’s not about being a Democrat of a Republican. ‘Belly of the Beast’ is a song about welfare and the prison system based on what I’ve seen as an attorney. It’s warm in the belly of the beast tonight… It’s kind of a Tom Waits-y song.

On his elusive next record: “We have a few shows coming up, but nothing too crazy. I have a four-year-old and a demanding job, and my drummer and bass player both tour with a lot of other bands. I want to record as soon as I can, but I don’t want to make any promises yet.”

Roman Reese and the Cardinal Sins will play Preservation Pub Saturday, Nov. 26 at 10 p.m.


From the Vault: The ’90s redux

Many of Knoxville’s favorite acts of yesteryear have seen a resurgence, however brief, on the stage at Preservation Pub. Following is a short selection of Knoxville’s ’90s favorites who have played the Pub in more recent times.

Rude, crude, and politically incorrect, shock rocker Fat Bastard, aka Mark Shetterly, never missed an opportunity to offend back in his frequent local performances of the mid-to-late 1990s. Here, he recalls some of that repellent magic from the stage of the Pub.

Goth-mosh pioneers Immortal Chorus were arguably the city’s most popular rock ‘n’ roll band round about 1994. Frontman Steve Britton — he of the soaring, Peter Murphy-esque pipes — later served a stint as a bartender at the Pub.

Pegasi 51 began life in the late ’90s as a rock-ribbed post-punk and industrial metal hybrid. They enjoyed a brief return in the ’00s playing a more stripped-down brand of melodic punk rock.

Preservation Profiles: J-Adam Smith, Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours

14702488_1219356768139217_589130866975303258_nMaybe you’ve wondered about the spiffy purple hearse tooling around the streets of Knoxville with the Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours insignia emblazoned on its doors, or maybe you just have a fiendish fascination with things that go  bump in the night. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, then I’m telling right now to bugger off. Go listen to some Perry Como LPs, or whatever it is you do for shits and giggles on a dark and stormy night. This post isn’t for you.

Because we’re here to talk about one J-Adam Smith, proprietor of the aforementioned Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours, and a man with a fascinating story to tell. Settle in, and learn how Smith is more-or-less singlehandedly mapping Knoxville’s haunted history for all and sundry to consider.

Knoxville’s own Venkman (that’s a Ghostbusters ref, in case you missed that one, bubba), Smith hails from the little burg of Leesburg, Fla., and that’s where he got his introduction to all things paranormal, an introduction that hit very close to home.

In his very own home, that is. Smith tells that he was in his mid-20s, working as a violin instructor and had just purchased his “dream home,” a lovely little cottage in Leesburg, when the weirdness began. “It was an absolutely exquisite two-story Victorian that I got well below market price, two blocks from downtown,” Smith remembers. “It was a dream come true, and such a great deal.”

But one day, as Smith worked outside in the garden of his lovely new manse, a car pulled up at a nearby stoplight, and a man leaned out of the window, addressing Smith. “He said, ‘Hey, did you know your house is haunted?'” Smith says. “I said, uh, no, and didn’t think much more of it.”

At least, not until later, when the trouble started. In the coming months, Smith began to notice unseemly things happening at his cottage idyll — lights going on an off, of their own accord; faucets dripping out of nowhere; inexplicable cold spots in strange places in the home, normally placid pets coming unhinged at things that no one could see.

“It came to the point where I could either run for the hills and be scared, or fight back,” Smith says. “I decided to turn into a research hound, learn everything I could about what was going on.”

The research helped, to a point. On at least one occasion, Smith says he was able to seemingly soothe troubled spirits by performing a ‘smudging ceremony’ — a series of arcane blessings performed with herbal sage.

But it all came to a head one evening, with Smith home alone, when a sudden and eerie moaning set in, the sound of a terrible and nameless agony emanating unseen from within his own four walls. “I couldn’t tell much other than it was the sound of a human being, and it was coming from somewhere inside the house,” he says. “I hightailed it to my parents house, banging on their door in the middle of the night.

“I told them, ‘I think my house is haunted.’ And there was no judgment, they just opened the door. And the explaining began.”

Smith learned that evening that his parents, too, had been victims of an apparent haunting, at the first home he’d ever known, when he and his sister were but tots. “I’d had occasional flashbacks, of hearing things as I lay in my bed, and of my sister telling stories I didn’t understand.

“It was the moment that I first realized I could do things to challenge the paranormal,” Smith says.

Alas, though, the Dream Home was too far gone. “My health was suffering,” Smith says. “My relationships were suffering. My business was suffering. There were too many challenges. I decided the home wasn’t for me.”

Smith put the house on the market, taking care to perform a smudging ceremony before every showing, to keep the paranormal shenanigans at bay when prospective new homeowners were on premise.

Two weeks after the home sold, Smith got word that the ceiling fell in.

In the meantime, though, Smith’s outlook improved. He founded a local paranormal investigation group in Leesburg he dubbed “Cold Spots Paranormal.” He dove into more paranormal research. And he traveled.

During his travels, Smith tells that he ended up falling in love with another little city to the north of his Florida home, a little placed called Knoxville, Tenn. He moved here in 2008, and after working a series of jobs, he decided to combine his love of the town and its history with his fascination with paranormal research, and founded Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours, a sight-seeing tour operation that has as its focus the city’s haunted history.

“It all started with me being down at the East Tennessee Historical Society,” Smith says. “The more I researched, the more I marveled at how amazing and turbulent Knoxville’s history is. I like to say that it was kind of like the ‘Wild East,’ rather than the Wild West.

“My thought process was, could some of these turbulent, violent historical events lead to more hauntings? Maybe Knoxville is one of America’s great undiscovered haunted cities.”

Smith says that he did indeed find plenty of fodder for paranormal activity. “Lots of tragedy — the Civil War, Native American history, shootings — lots of what I call ‘unfinished business,'” he says.

Some of Smith’s favorite Knoxville stories include the haunting of the Gay Street Bridge: according to lore, a man who was wrongly accused of murder was strung up and shot down around what is now the third light on the bridge. Legend has it the light has been plagued by the man’s restless, vengeful spirit ever since.

Then there’s the bizarre story of a three-way homicide. Or the high-ranking military officer buried in secret behind his devoted troops’ backs. “I’ve uncovered something like 38 ground zeros in the downtown area alone,” Smith says, explaining that a ‘ground zero’ is a hotspot for activity, usually the on the site of a notable or violent historical event. “A ground zero is an area where trauma has happened,” he says.

But don’t think it’s all just history and hearsay. Smith’s tours offer a distinctly hands-on experience. Armed with the tools of the trade — EMF detectors, spirit boxes, Mel Meters — Smith gives his clients a crash course in ghost hunting 101, then takes them on a tour of various of the city’s haunting hotspots.

“My goal is not to turn skeptics into believers, but rather my goal is just to conduct top-notch investigations,” he says. “Paranormal investigation can be a lot like fishing, lots of not getting results, followed by a whirlwind of activity. But we do cover lots of locations in a short period of time, so it sets us up for success. Plus, you really get to learn the city.”

Smith is full of tales from his guided tours, of investigations that turned up ghostly EVPs (electronic voice phenomena — unexplained voices that turn up on playback of recordings in seemingly soundless rooms), of flashlights with minds of their own or of weird sensations in dark places.

“I was at the Baker-Peters House in West Knoxville, which I consider to be one of the most haunted places in the Southeast,” Smith says. “I was descending into the basement in the dark, and all of a sudden, I felt a hand grab my leg.

“I was touched. And even someone who is as experienced as I am, if you’re touched like that, you will jump.”

Contact J-Adam Smith through, or on Facebook at haunted knoxvilleghost tours.


Who do you think you are? w/ Preservation Pub Bartendress Gabriella Muglia

gabriellaDo you know any really bad jokes?

GM: How do you make a hankey dance? Put a little boogie in it!

Who’s your favorite superhero?

GM: Probably Batman, because he’s just a regular dude who’s badass, has some cool gadgets, and makes it work.

If you were going to torture somebody, how would you do it?

GM: I’d slowly cut off one body part at a time and make them eat each one.

Who is your least favorite celebrity?

GM: Kanye West. The world’s biggest douche bag. I won’t even listen to his music because I don’t want to even consider liking it.

What is your least favorite song?

GM: “Blinded by the Light.” I’ve always hated that song. It used to be playing every time I went shopping at Goodwill, and I just wanted to get away from it. Plus there’s that line. “Ripped up like a douce”??? What’s he saying?

Describe Hell.

GM: Complete isolation, and not having any sensory perception at all. And being completely and utterly alone.

Describe your most embarrassing moment, ever.

GM: Popping my cherry, by accident, in second grade.