Now Playing: Quiet Hollers

There’s a veritable chasm twixt the musical realms of D.C. hardcore and heartland rock, but Quiet Hollers founder Shadwick Wilde managed to bridge the gulf with a single self-released album and a pull-together show.

A Kentucky native,  Wilde cut his teeth growing up playing guitar in so-called “street punk” bands in Louisville.  He eventually landed gigs as a guitarist for hire in a couple of national touring punk bands, including a notable Washington, D.C. hardcore outfit.

But around 2010, Wilde decided he needed a new direction and  new sound. Noting the crossover Americana success of old-school punk rockers like Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music and Tim Barry from Avail, he wrote and recorded a 13-song alt-country solo record, “Unforgivable Things,” full of traditional instruments and lyrical allusions to life in the rural South.

Wanting to showcase the new material, Wilde gathered a handful other of local musicians for a one-off show at a Louisville club. “We had a huge response,” Wilde says. “At that point, the band became its own thing.”

None of this is to say that Wilde’s transition was inauthentic. His early punk leanings notwithstanding, Wilde says he was a longtime fan of artists like Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle.  A talented lyricist, Wilde also had longstanding writerly aspirations that squared well with his alt-country turn.

“I’ve been writing since I was in middle school — fiction, short stories, poems,” Wilde says. “I don’t think of myself as a virtuoso singer or guitar player. I’m a voracious reader, and that has a huge influence on the things I write.”

Wilde admits, however, that some of the self-conscious trappings of traditional Americana fell away after the debut of “Unforgivable Things” — the string-band trappings, the Southern Gothic-approved song titles like “Kentucky Tobacco” and “Destitution Road.” His old post-punk roots began to show again, and his subsequent work with his newfound band settled comfortably into a space at the juncture of his disparate influences.

Indeed, the Hollers’ sound today is at once ruminative and compelling, bolstered not a little by lyricist Wilde’s hyper-literate yet personable musings. It’s of a piece with contemporary folk-rockers like Fleet Foxes, with heartland punks like the Gaslight Anthem, with alt-country stalwarts like the Jayhawks.

“I’m always amused to hear which genres listeners put us in, what artists they compare us to,” Wilde says, chuckling. “I have my ideas, but everyone seems to have their own interpretation. I usually just say that we’re indie rock, because that’s broad enough to encompass a lot of different sounds. There are elements of rock, folk, and traditional music in what we do.

“I think what’s most important is that each song decides which direction it’s going in, rather than us deciding it’s going to go a particular way. The magic lies in the fact that each song creates its own world for it to exist in.”

Right now, the Hollers are touring in support of their 2017 release “Amen Breaks,” a record Wilde considers to be his most thoughtful and accessible work to date. “A lot of my stuff is pretty introspective,” he says. “There’s a lot of self-criticism and inner struggle, sorting through complicated feelings.

“Our newest record widens the lens. We’re living in a world now where a lot of people are experiencing fear and anxiety. The record isn’t so much a shift toward social commentary as toward the fact that these issues are affecting all of us now. I’m not being didactic or preachy, saying, ‘I have the answers.’ It’s more a matter of asking what kind of world we’re going to have a few years from now.”

Quiet Hollers will play Preservation Pub Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 10 p.m.



Now Playing: Sam Pace and the Gilded Grit

Sam Pace has the sort of voice that can command a room by dint of sheer menacing authority, an apocalyptic roar that calls to mind the bellowing of bedrock bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, with Pace reimagining their Alpha-blues swagger within the context of modern-day rock ‘n’ roll.

That puissant swagger is embedded in Pace’s very being, though not in such a way as to come off as overbearing or false. The Austin-based musician simply seems like a man who’s paid his dues, and whose ample musical chops are more than sufficient to buttress the considerable confidence he has in his work.

“After all these years and all the hard touring, I’ve come out as a fully evolved artist, with a  fully evolved vision and a fully evolved band,” Pace says. “I still stand by the work I did earlier in my career, but what I’m doing now is like a whole other thing.”

Growing up in Milwaukee, Pace started playing guitar at age 15, but didn’t have his musical epiphany until age 20. “That’s when I got tunnel vision,” he says. “I got serious. I said, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

Already an able guitar player, Pace says that was the point he undertook the daunting project of transforming his rasping, errant singing voice into a capable instrument unto itself. “I was a terrible singer,” he says with a laugh. “But I wanted to sing, and there was no one around who was singing what I wanted to hear. So I practiced and I practiced, for years. And it paid off. I’ve always been a pretty willful individual.”

But while Pace’s guitar education came courtesy of classic ’60s and ’70s-era blues-rock stylists like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Pace dug back into the source material of the Blues itself in teaching himself to sing –drawing from the unfiltered emotional catharsis of early Delta artists, from the vocal ebullience of later Chicago bluesmen, from the bluster and bravado of transitional figures like the aforementioned Waters and Wolf.

“Blues is the root of all good and evil,” Pace says. “It’s pure and raw and true. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s triumphant. It’s pathetic. There is no bullshit in it. The Blues speak to me in a way that no other form of music is able to.”

Pace has been living in Austin about three years now, having put together his crack trio the Gilded Grit soon after moving there from Chicago. Together, they’ve released three full-length records of barnstorming neo-blues with a hard-rock kick that falls just shy of heavy metal. Now Pace has a plan to release a new record in two stages over the course of the next year; the next few months will see the release of the four-song “Judgment Eve Part I” EP, followed by the release of the full-fledged 11-song “Judgment Eve” in spring of next year.

“Those first four songs are very intense, very rhythmically powerful,” Pace says. “They’re meant to pump people up. The rest of the record is really diverse. It’s hard to describe what all will be on there, but it will blow people away. The plan then is to take it on the road, try to meet people and taken this thing to the next level, to bigger stages.

“We’re grateful for what we’ve gotten so far, but we want a whole lot more, and we’re hungry for that next level. And I think we can get there because there’s nothing quite like the music we’re going to be putting out there. It’s a force to be reckoned with.”

Sam Pace and the Gilded Grit will play Preservation Pub Thursday, Sept. 14 at 10 p.m.

Zeus Speaks: Total Solar Eclipse Edition

Mighty Zeus is an Ancient, a Sage, and a Magic Man, a Djinn who dwells in a cubbyhole ‘neath the stairwell of Preservation Pub. When called upon, he channels the wisdom of the ages for all who would hear it, from the vantage of his cubby or here in the digital pages of Scruffington Post.
This month, Preservation Pub will hold a rooftop Solar Eclipse Party beginning around noon on Monday, Aug. 21. And we’ve asked Zeus to hold forth on the celestial wonders beheld on that auspicious and blessed afternoon.

SP: According to the Internet, oh Zeus, a given location will see a total solar eclipse only once every 375 years. How, then, should we interpret the fact of this rarefied event occurring in our own lifetimes?
Z: The eclipse forecasts change and transformation. It also serves a warning to get our lives in order. The Universe is watching, and we need an awakening within ourselves.
The eclipse represents the Trinity — Mother Earth, the Sun and the Moon. The commingling of black and white, which the eclipse creates, is a symbol for peace and harmony between the races. It’s the Universe’s way of saying we need to come together in unity and peace.
SP: Are there any malign spirits that might be associated with the eclipse?
Z: Well, it does symbolize the arrival of Something, or Somebody. What? Or Who? We can’t know. But when there is alignment, there is a Gateway. It’s a Gateway for something to come through to us. And it’s a Gateway that some of those who are with us now may leave through.
The thing is that the energy of the eclipse can be positive or negative. If your own energy is positive, then it will react positively with you. But if your energy is negative, it will amplify that negative energy you already have.
SP: We’re going through a period of exceptional strife and violence. Is it a coincidence that the eclipse is happening now?
Z: It’s a sign of the times. This unrest, it’s been foretold in all the sacred books. If you have focused on God, then it should not be a surprise. If you have focused on God, then you will be prepared for all of this.

Please come to the Preservation Pub/Scruffy City Hall Dark Side of the Moon Rooftop Total Solar Eclipse Party on Monday, Aug. 21 at noon. There will be an eclipse, appropriate music, and plenty of beer.

Now Playing: The Orange Constant

Though they hail from the Peach state town that is the namesake of a genre classic, Georgia jam-band the Orange Constant’s own brand of Statesboro  blues owes at least as much to fusion, prog and ’70s-era singer-songwriters as it does to Gregg and Duane Allman.

Founded in Statesboro, Ga. and then imported to Athens, the Orange Constant began life as outlet for fellow Georgia Southern music students Andrew Brantley and Nickalous Benson. “We were both guitar players, and we started writing and covering songs, playing acoustic gigs at a couple of places,” says Brantley, who is also the Constant’s lead singer.

“Then we added bass and drums, started doing full band gigs. Our appeal was that we played a wide variety of and styles — the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Umphrey’s McGhee. We got to play a lot of shows because our repertoire was so diverse.”

That diversity also helped mold the Constant’s evolution as an original recording act.  Their recorded output — two albums and one EP — showcases smooth, polished progressive rock that tilts in the direction of jazz fusion, yet remains tempered by strong pop sensibilities. Brantley describes it as “vintage, ’70s-era rock mixed with a new age jam-band feel.

“One thing that separates us from other jam bands is that we’re a little more structured. We like to keep to a fairly tight, structured format. Then from that beginning point, we try to stretch out a little when we play live, and try to make the songs more than they are on record.”

Brantley’s voice is a standout, too — mellifluous, tonally pure, existing in a no-fly zone between alto and tenor, it’s a voice that seems better suited to pop-rock crooning than to inhabiting the same genre as roughneck growlers like Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes. And yet it’s perfectly matched with the Orange Constant’s smooth yet sophisticated compositional approach.

“I actually grew up listening to folk music,” Brantley says. “Listening to ‘The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary’ in the car with my dad — that’s what first gave me the idea that I could sing, and maybe sound as pretty as they did. Then over the years, I started embracing it more. I took a choir class in college, and I started doing vocal exercises. I worked at it, and I became comfortable with who I am as a singer.”

A relatively new addition to the fold, bassist and backing vocalist Tyler Walker is a great singer in his own right, Brantley says, and along with new keyboardist Chris Freiberg, adds another dimension to the band’s well-crafted harmonic tapestries.

“Having Tyler in the band makes for some great harmonies,” Brantley says. “On our next full-length album, you’ll really hear us push the envelope what we can do with our vocals.

“Chris plays a Moog synthesizer, and the trademark sound of that Moog has been very present in our sound; it adds a lot of color. The additions have made us more electric, and more electrifying. Our stage presence has gotten more powerful. We take a lot more risks now when we’re up there playing live.”

Next up for the Orange Constant, though is an all-instrumental EP, which Brantley says will serve as a sort of homage to the band’s collective appreciation for jazz-rock. “We all love instrumental music, and we have some really good compositions we want to show off,” Brantley says. “It will be a fusion record, with a little dance-electronic stuff thrown in. We all love jazz fusion, and that’s how I perceive our instrumental stuff.”

The Orange Constant will play Preservation Pub Friday, Aug. 25 with special guest Hank and Cupcakes beginning at 10 p.m.

Now Playing: The Jangling Sparrows

“Careerist” used to be something of a slur in the music industry, but Asheville singer-songwriter Paul Edelman doesn’t shy from the label, nor from the hard work required of anyone who is so inclined. But then labels don’t matter a jot where Edelman is concerned, inasmuch as the Philadelphia native’s artistic credentials are beyond approach.
A songwriting savant also blessed with a strong voice and stellar guitar chops, Edelman rates as a top-notch performer, whether he’s playing a solo acoustic gig or fronting his Americana power trio the Jangling Sparrows.
“I come out of the whole No Depression al-country tradition,” Edelman explains. “That always made the most sense to me, that tradition of American roots rock. I grew up loving songwriters, like Neil Young and Bob Dylan. As a teenager, I was a big fan of Jim Croce. So I took that, and approached the whole alt-country thing with that kind of singer-songwriter mindset.”
Edelman says he moved to Asheville from Pennsylvania some years back, in part due to the city’s robust roots music scene, but also because of its proximity to other like-minded towns. “It’s a good central location, where you’re two to five hours away from several other workable cities,” he says.
Though he’s been performing for well more than a decade now, Edelman still considers himself a work in progress — he’s mastered the fugitive art of assessing without obsessing, taking the measure of his craft, his musicianship, even his relationship with his audience in such a way as to balance principle with pragmatism.
“I ask myself, how do I define myself in the industry, and still have integrity?” he says. “That’s something I’m still learning.
“I had to learn to perform without being a phony. As a pure songwriter, my instinct is to just get on stage and sing the song. Things like stage energy and playing to the crowd weren’t even on my radar. I had to learn the importance of those things, and learn what they looked like for me. I had to learn to go beyond just playing the songs, because you have to make it special for the people watching you. Making that performance special for them, that’s what you’re aiming for.”
Though he currently only has three releases to his name — two with the Jangling Sparrows, and one, “Stranger Things and Truer Words,” as a solo performer — Edelman says he has another Sparrows platter already in the can, plus 50 unreleased songs that will likely be the core of his next four releases or so.
“I’m going to get a publicist to help with this next one,” Edelman says. “I want to keep expanding in a rational, business-savvy type of way.
“I’ve learned that to make a living in this business, you’ve got to be good, but you also have to be out there hustling. The successful ones are the ones who live it. The moment I realized I didn’t have a backup plan, that’s the moment I really started taking this seriously.”
The Jangling Sparrows will play Preservation Pub Thursday, Aug. 31 at 10 p.m.