Though it has yet to be released on a proper album, “Jimi Please Don’t Go” serves as a creative calling card for four-piece Nashville outfit the Delta Troubadours, who laid the track down in Muscle Shoals, Ala.’s famed FAME Studios in early 2017. A self-styled mash-up of Ten Years After’s “I’m Going Home” and the Jimi Hendrix classic “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” the song puts in summary everything the Troubadours are about — heavy-retro blues filtered through the lens of swampy Southern rock — while giving full vent to the band’s ferocious charms — frontman Gytis Garsys growling grim and feral through successive verses before giving way to guitarist Ian Heausler’s slashing lead.
Founded scarcely four years ago in Gainesville, Fla., the Troubadours began life with another name — “Gritt” — and another bent — Garsys tells that the band’s bread-and-butter was playing contemporary country favorites at football gameday parties for drunken UF-G college kids. “When we realized that we could write songs, it was like, ‘Let’s start playing the music we really want to play,'” Garsys says. “We started playing Southern rock, and we let go of some members. And as we changed members, we brought in more of our own rock ‘n’ roll influences.”
“We’re at a point where none of the members we have now joined the band wanting to play pop country,” says bassist John Franklin. “Don’t get me wrong; I lot of us love alt-country, or old-school country. But that stuff we were playing at first was utterly soulless.”
The band also picked up and moved cross-country, to Nashville, where the members made a comfortable home on the city’s east side. “There’s a grunginess to East Nashville that suits us,” says Heausler. “It’s got an interesting mesh of artistic people. That, and living here, we’re closer to a lot of markets we might not have played had we stayed back in Gainesville.”
In the meantime, the Troubadours evolved the splenetic rumble that has become their stock in trade. It’s a sound that owes not a little to the heavier blues-based rock of the ’60s and ’70s, while nodding at contemporary practitioners of the art like the Rival Sons, or even fellow Nashvillians Kings of Leon. Garsys is the fulcrum of it all, blessed as he is with an ineffable sort of frontman charisma, and an evocative, gale-force baritone. The timbre of his voice is not unlike that of Kings of Leon leader Caleb Followill, although he sings with a bilious energy that Followill left behind some five albums ago.
“I get the Kings of Leon comparison a lot, and that’s okay with me, because he has a very distinctive voice,” Garsys says. “I think the most important thing as a vocalist is having a distinct voice, something people will remember. Guys like Van Morrison, John Fogerty, they were really important to how I approached singing.”
Right now, Garsys and his ‘mates are loading up, writing and prepping for a second studio platter, an effort that will further define the still-young Troubadours as they scramble for a foothold in the fraught landscape of post-millennial hard rock. “It hasn’t been that long since we started playing our music, since we started being ‘us’,” Garsys says.
“I don’t know what you call it, maybe ‘blues-based, classic-rock-based southern rock?’ Some people call us ‘Southern grunge.’ But what we ultimately want is not for people to say, ‘That’s great; who is it?’ What we want is for people to hear us and say, ‘Oh, that’s the Delta Troubadours.'”
The Delta Troubadours will play Preservation Pub Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 10 p.m.