423 North Main Street
Tulsa, OK 74103
6:00 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012
Texas Hippie Coalition
Backyard barbecues, front porch jams, old-fashioned family values and hard-partying rock n' roll is the name of the game for Saving Abel. The no-frills, no pretension and down home charm driven compositions from these Southern boys have burned up the radio charts with soaring melodies and crunching hooks, caused guys and gals alike to shake what their momma gave 'em while pumping a fist in the air and served as feel good anthems for American troops on military bases abroad.
Saving Abel combined meat and potatoes rock with bombastic hooks and stormed the mainstream with their debut in 2008, landing a gold plaque in the process with well over 500,000 in domestic sales and topping the Billboard "Heatseekers" chart, to boot. The eponymous record spawned the platinum single "Addicted" and the followup barn-burners, "Drowning (Face Down)" and the emotional "18 Days." Their second album, Miss America, topped the Hard Rock chart and imprinted the hearts and minds of radio listeners with the title cut, "Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)" and another Top 10 single, "The Sex is Good."
Enduringly bound together by the creative nucleus of singer Jared Weeks and lead guitarist Jason Null, Saving Abel is poised to do it all over again in an even bigger way with their eOne debut, Bringing Down the Giant. The album runs the gamut of all of the heart and soul at the center of Saving Abel, exploring new depths and broadening the band's horizons to incorporate the best of what the hard rock genre has to offer in 2012. "Bringing Down the Giant," the title track, is raunchy enough to give Disturbed, Metallica or even Pantera a run for their money. It's the type of song that will blow down the doors if the WWE or UFC gets a hold of it. On the other end of the spectrum, the plaintive ballad "Picture of Elvis" somehow surpasses the emotional intensity and heartstring pull of "18 Days." And then for total balance, songs like "Michael Jackson's Jacket" bridge the gap with a smooth, poppy, groovy vibe that shows off Weeks' impressive range in a Maroon 5 like fashion.
Saving Abel is rounded out by rhythm guitarist Scott Bartlett, bassist Eric Taylor and former 12 Stones drummer Michael McManus. The committed road warriors spent several years on the road supporting their first two albums. The touring lineups looked like a who's-who of real deal radio rock, with Saving Abel sharing stages with their peers and contemporaries in major acts like Nickelback, Hinder and Buckcherry. Saving Abel road appearances have also included radio festivals, biker rallies, state fairs and anywhere else that people appreciate dyed in the wool, real-deal rock n' roll with musical chops, expert songwriting and authentic groove and feel.
"We're just a bunch of Southern dudes who have had music in our lives since we were little boys. We like to have a good time no matter where we go, man," says Weeks. "I grew up on the front porch listening to my papa play the guitar. We'll always bring that Southern hospitality and that heritage. We try to spread the love around. We love music. Nobody in the band hates anyone else in the band and we have respect for what we do. This is our job and it's what we love doing."
Bringing Down the Giant stands alongside the best and brightest in modern rock but at the same time carries an ace up its sleeve in the form of its traditional roots backbone. Foot stomps, mandolins, jaw harps, banjos and even some empty water jugs (blown into by Jason) make an appearance on the record. It's a firm reminder that Jason and Jared are the same two guys who once defeated a small army of electrified groups at a battle of the bands wielding nothing but acoustic guitars.
On the new album, "We brought out every Southern, redneck, hillbilly style you can think of, man," says Jared with a laugh. "A lot of times it's really easy to get lost out there when you write music you think people will like or what they want to hear. We want to talk about sitting on the front porch in Mississippi with the heat, sitting out there having a great time drinking beer. We're more true to ourselves on this record, more true to our nature [than ever before]," he adds proudly.
The raw and down home feel of the melodic hard rock all over Bringing Down the Giant recalls the most vital and energizing aspects of the humble beginnings of the band, which stretches back to the local scene in the small town of Corinth (population: just over 50,000) in Alcorn County, Mississippi. "I'll never forget the day I met Jason, man," says Jared. "We were at a party where a couple of people put on some instruments. He was playing guitar and I just started singing."
"I had a band with a local following. Jared was like my little brother when I met him," says Jason. "There was just a big jam going on. I was learning some songs for a cover band and I started strumming and he knew the song and sang it. I thought, 'Well, this guy sings pretty good!' I couldn't believe that nobody in that room had asked him to join a band yet. So we exchanged numbers and within a couple of days we started getting together and soon we had written an album's worth of material." After a few false starts, the guys reconvened roughly a year later to write some more music, penning twenty songs together with an acoustic guitar.
Saving Abel tracked down producer Skidd Mills (12 Stones, ZZ Top, Saliva), who helped them craft extremely strong demos. Their manager, who was consulting for a major label, brought them to the attention of the A&R guy who signed who had signed bands like Matchbox 20 and Collective Soul. He offered Saving Abel a deal on the spot.
The band arrived in the consciousness of rock fans with a thundering "boom!" Their album connected on a deep and visceral level unmatched by cookie cutter groups and the type of bands who simply followed the trends instead of following their hearts. The old cliche about having your whole career to write your debut and six months to write the followup proved true for them, as they cobbled together the basic song ideas, structures and arrangements for Miss America partly on tour. While the followup album achieved all sorts of successes for them again and has already stood the test of time as a red blooded slab of American rock, Bringing Down the Giant is the type of album that fully delivers on the promise of everything that has come before with Saving Abel. It's a definitive statement of their intentions.
The band returned to the loving arms of their longtime comrade Skidd and ended up writing over 40 songs for their third album, many of them across a wide variety of genres from country to Christian and of course their patented hard-driving radio rock. "It was hard to choose which songs wouldn't make the album."
"We had been on the road for a long time. They boys were all pretty tired but we were still very anxious to get in the studio and start writing this album," Jared explains. Parting ways with their former label partners gave Saving Abel some nice breathing room to make the album they wanted to make without external pressures, artificial deadlines or anyone breathing down their necks but themselves. "It was such a blessing. It relieved so much of the pressure. We had the album basically finished, all but the cover artwork, before we even signed the contract with eOne. In the past we always had to get into the studio, get the album done. I don't want to talk badly about our old label, but, at eOne, we can tell they are really excited about us and we are at the top of the list of things for them to do."
Saving Abel has built a large following and a consistent catalog in their still young career with no signs of stopping or slowing down anytime soon. Their connection with their roots, their audience and their presentation is palpable and something to be admired. "I hope, God willing, we tour until we're old men," says Jason.
It comes down to that personal connection with the crowd. "I don't care if I'm playing in front of 75,000 people when you can't see everyone's faces; the important thing is that there's one person out there that's enjoying the music and that moment we are in together," Jared says. "If we can get that on person's attention? Man, that does it for me! It makes me feel like everything I'm doing isn't in vain or done for no reason." That feeling is particularly strong when playing for the troops.
The end goal for Saving Abel is something that dawned on Jason one day while he was driving down the road and some song on the radio instantly took him back to a cherished childhood memory. "It automatically took me back to this time and place where I had heard the song for the first time. It was one of those moments where I could almost smell the room I was in and from that, I jotted it down in my notes that music is the only true time travel that we will ever know as human beings.
"I just hope that there's that 16-year-old kid that can do that with one of our songs," he adds. "They can pop it in and it takes them to a happy place; music that people remember and love. When I was growing up you had your bands like Def Leppard, ZZ Top, AC/DC and Van Halen. I thank God every day that I get to do what I love for a living. You can get aggravated and get tired of any job, but I'd much rather be aggravated playing music for a living rather than working at K-Mart."
With an album like Bringing Down the Giant, there's no chance that the guys in Saving Abel will be looking for retail gigs in this or any other lifetime.
Texas Hippie Coalition
There are two paths you can take in life. You can choose to fall in line and be a follower, always fifth or sixth back, lagging behind others. Or you can make your own line and live as you choose, with everyone else landing behind you, while you create your own thing. Want to guess which line Texas Hippie Coalition have chosen?
That's right. The purveyors of their own patented Red Dirt Metal sound are designing their own line in life and in music. For them, there is no other way.
Texas Hippie Coalition are committed to crafting a unique, original and thoroughly raucous brand of music that's born of both life experience and a respect for rock 'n' roll's forefathers. What exactly is Red Dirt Metal? Take outlaw country, toss in a dash of Southern-fried classic rock and mix it with some potent Texas power grooves and you've got a combustible sonic cocktail on your hands. Texas Hippie Coalition's third album Peacemaker is a textbook example of Red Dirt Metal, which is the sound the band has been honing and cultivating for its entire existence.
THC's frontman Big Dad Ritch, known as the "Godfather" of the RDM sound and an individual with a laser-like focus and vision when it comes to his music, believes that the band has hit its stride on Peacemaker, capturing the spirit of rock 'n' roll outlaws like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. He declares, "The outlaw spirit is still alive today. That is our goal: Bring it back."
THC, who were the first band signed to their label Carved Records back in 2009, want fans of classic rock bands to know that they are carrying the torch and that they want to be the keepers of the genre's keys. There will be no extinction of this beloved genre if THC have anything to say about it. "We want the people that love Molly Hatchet, ZZ Top, .38 Special, the Van Zandts and those bands that are growing older to know that somebody else out there is already waving the flag high," he declared. The band, in essence, is ensuring that the style continues to have new and noteworthy additions, such as itself.
But Texas Hippie Coalition aren't simply about making sure the outlaw rock style that they pretty much worship stays alive. They want it to evolve, infusing it with a modern edge and energy, thanks to the new tools (or is that weapons?) of the trade. Having also been surrounded and influenced by the likes of Black Label Society and Pantera –with Ritch proudly proclaiming to having seen the latter between 50 and 75 times live- Texas Hippie Coalition are turning in something fresh and fierce with Peacemaker. They aren't just paying homage to Southern rock's cultural milemarkers. They are proceeding with the intent to add to its canon.
The process of making the album was at first bolstered by levels of familiarity and comfort. "Me, [bassist] John Exall and [guitarist] Randy Cooper have been together a long time, and we're soldiers always ready to go into battle no matter what," Ritch said about his bandmates. The lineup is now rounded out by [drummer] Timmy Braun and [guitarist] Wes Wallace, who shared a lot of the album's writing duties with Ritch.
But there were also some changes and shifts, which also add to the album's heft and helped the band to expand. Texas Hippie Coalition recruited producer Bob Marlette (Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper) to work his magic and to help the band to further explore what it was capable of with an already established, branded sound. "We have a new producer and we already know who we are and what our brand is, so with this album, we decided that the boundaries we set for ourselves [are] in the past. We would cut that barbed wire and explore beyond those fences" Ritch said.
Exploring beyond those fences and cutting that barbed wire meant creating what the band calls "heart songs." Rather than saddle them with a generic term like "ballad," Texas Hippie Coalition chose to call 'em "heart songs" because they touch the listener's ticker. "They take you even deeper into the heart and soul, and into the deeper darkness," Ritch admitted. He even referenced his biggest musical hero's ability to vacillate between the dark and the light. "Johnny Cash could still let you inside and see the darkness of the man," Ritch pointed out. "Johnny Cash was not just wearing black on the outside. There are parts of him that are black, and that same idea comes across on this album for us."
Even with "heart songs," Ritch issues a Surgeon General's warning of sorts. "This album here takes you on a harder, longer drive, right into a brick wall. Strap yourself in." Isn't that the best type of rock 'n' roll there is?
Speaking about specific songs on Peacemaker, he said that the visceral "'Damn You to Hell' is maybe the heaviest song we've written. It has such drive and intensity that it's like a mixed martial arts event, like UFC pay per view, like someone being grounded and pounded on." You may emerge feeling like you've been administered a beating, but as evidenced in Fight Club, you can come out the other side cleansed and stronger from the catharsis.
"Think Of Me" is admittedly "the closest thing to a love song that this band would ever do. It is a great song. It goes beyond those boundaries." Other songs that typify Red Dirt Metal include "8 Seconds" and "You Ain't Seen Me," which Ritch admits is "as southern-fried as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet."
The title song is a brilliantly written tune, told from the perspective of a gun. Ritch said, "I thought, 'What would that gun say to people?'" That's not something you come across every day in rock music, and it's further evidence of how Texas Hippie Coalition are rewriting the rule book. The song boasts the lyrics, "I just whooped the devil's ass / And you ain't seen nothing if Jesus asks / It wasn't nothing for him to see / This is all between God and me." See what we mean about the outlaw spirit? It's wholly present in every note, riff and lyric of Peacemaker.
Essentially, Peacemaker, which follows the previous albums The Pride of Texas and Rollin', is like one of those out-of-control parties that will find you without a girlfriend and with pissed off family members the very next day, but you'll be gawking over your killer new tattoo while nursing an awful hangover. It's the stuff of life, the good time ingredient that you can't manufacture or fake. It comes from a very real place, thanks to Texas Hippie Coalition's ability to understand their influences and mine them into something wholly unique. $13.50 - $16.50