Hannah Aldridge / Grace and Tony / Chelsey Whild $8 Advance $10 at the Door
Americana from Muscle Shoals AL / Nashville TN
“Dark Americana,” is how the daughter of Muscle Shoals' royalty describes the ghostly, unflinching, sometimes gritty tales that separate her 10-song RAZOR WIRE collection from the mainstream. The title song –reprised as an acoustic “bonus” at CD’s end -- is evidence of how this daughter of Shoals' tunesmith and icon, Walt Aldridge uses her stark poetic soul to visit life’s dark corners. The song is a lust-and-melancholy retelling of the day she took her wedding ring to a pawn shop and then “was sitting around in a bar with a guy I met there. It’s 100 percent real.” While in some ways the song -- the arms and bed of the barfly is eventual salve for love lost -- is reminiscent of classic country standards about marital heartache and sexual healing, it demonstrates the raw musical texture and lyrics flavoring her entire album.
Hannah's song “Black and White,” is inspired by her 6-year-old son, Jackson (named for musical hero Jackson Browne). “I have a picture of my little boy, Jackson, in black-and-white. He's playing guitar and smiling. I wish I could go back to those black-and-white days, when a box of rocks beneath the bed was cause for joy," she says. Then there is “Lie Like You Love Me,” a sort of “For the Good Times” song of sex that’s flavored with imagery of addiction: “I miss you like morphine straight to my veins.” “Howlin’ Bones” is an angry declaration of independence. “You thought I was a dirty scoundrel, but you've done cross the devil now,” she proclaims in the song she says set the mood for her raw Nashville analogue sessions…"nobody is going to tell me what to say.” “Lonesome,” RAZOR WIRE’s final track (save for the title song’s reprise) -- a bitter mood piece about her parents’ divorce – not only explains her against-the-grain musical quest but closes the album out in appropriate melancholia. “I can’t put my finger on it, I don’t who’s to blame, but the one thing that I’m sure of is lonesome goes both ways”.
HANNAH ALDRIDGE, 26, is steeped in the music both of Nashville and Muscle Shoals, the two cities where she was raised as her father -- a Muscle Shoals legend as well as a much-honored Nashville songwriter, musician and producer – plied his craft. Her musical youth was spent being trained to be a classical pianist. She didn’t begin writing songs until, as a 21-year-old sound-engineering student at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN she took a songwriting class as an elective. “I literally thought we were going to learn how to write songs,” she says. After discovering students were expected already to have written songs, she turned to her dad for help. “I found out it really wasn’t that hard: It’s just saying things that are true and making them rhyme,” says the young woman who began her performing career at Nashville’s most famous singer-songwriter venue, The Bluebird Café, after she was among students chosen to represent MTSU in a showcase. “It was so wild: I had gotten picked out of all those people who wanted to be songwriters.” She sang her entire three-song catalog that night. Two years later, Hannah signed a publishing deal after her song “Lonesome” was featured on the “Hart of Dixie” television series. “That song has been a launching pad for me,” she says.
There is stark contradiction between the “real” and loving Hannah and the hard-loved, almost-fictitious character she becomes when writing songs trekking through life’s darkly carnal sides. The real Hannah, a striking 5-foot-11 blonde, smiles frequently, affably when discussing her music and her life. The mention of her son, sparks a generous gleam in her deep green eyes. “My character is someone who will kill somebody, get high. This person is an outlaw and is also somebody that understands the difference between good and bad. My character is someone who says ‘this is not right, but I’m doing it anyway.’…I would never ride a motorcycle, but you know she would," says Hannah, putting a fingertip on the cheek of the hard blonde in the cover photo..
The girl on the album cover, in her mind and in her lyrics, does all of the above and much more as she drags the soft-spoken “real Hannah” out of her out of her everyday existence and into the musty magnolia darkness where characters question the darker side of life. “People expect girls to be more refined. But I’ve been to rehab, got sober, been married, divorced, had a kid when I wasn’t married, went to college all the way as a single mom.”
In the end, the album is where the “dark” Hannah and the sweetly profound young mother mingle. “This album is about learning to be a grownup, learning to face the world alone. It’s about being brave enough to look people in the eye and just say ‘This is who I am -- imperfections and all.’”
And that’s just what she does. And the listener is the beneficiary.
Grace and Tony
GRACE & TONY — The NOVEMBER Chronicle
She played bluegrass. He played punk… When Grace and Tony White met, they fell in love and the music just followed after.
“I had seen Grace play years ago and, not only was I impressed, I developed a serious secret crush,” Tony reminisced. “When I found out that she was learning mandolin and banjo, I took a shot and asked her to jam with me. The rest is history.”
Exposed to music early on in their lives by family (Grace’s liked the Southern styles from gospel all the way to rock, while Tony learned from his brother, John Paul White of The Civil Wars fame), Grace & Tony experimented with an unlikely blend of genres by mixing punk, folk, bluegrass, and Texas swing, to create something new. What resulted was a blend of music for those searching for what’s beyond the norm: “Punkgrass” was born.
“Punkgrass is simply a natural fusion of my punk rock background, and Grace’s southern gospel and bluegrass upbringing,” stated Tony. “It isn’t forced, it’s very organic and it stands out because it’s a real fusion of what’s new and old. We play whatever pops into our heads; from classic rock to southern gospel, we scratch every itch. It’s dark, yet happy; silly, yet serious. Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun to play.”
Crafting and singing lyrical tales of murder, addiction, and lost love that are wrapped in a happy twist, Grace & Tony honed their newfound brand of music on the sidewalks of downtown Nashville with no idea where their music might lead them. Showcasing an ability to create emotionally connective music, they built a solid fan base of dedicated listeners the old-fashioned way… one by one.
“We made ourselves available,” said Grace. “We appreciated every single one of our fans, and set out to answer every single question they had. We are making music that isn’t for everyone so we had to pick them off one at a time to build our audience. It worked and they began asking for more music!”
Working with Lloyd Aur Norman and Stephen D. Jones of Villain Place in Nashville, Grace & Tony released the acoustic EP, Inside A 7-Track Mind, in 2011. Since then, doors have opened and they have succeeded in their goal to be heard by bigger audiences by headlining the historic Crockett Theater (Lawrenceburg, TN), appearing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and performing twice on the legendary “Daytrotter Sessions,” as well as performances for Balcony TV, “Jimmy Lloyd’s Songwriter Showcase,” and Knoxville’s “Blue Plate Special” programs. In addition, two of their videos (“Let You Down,” “November”) are being played in regular rotation on The Country Network. They’ve also scored airplay on CMT Edge and GAC.
In anticipation of a full-length release, the young couple launched a successful Kickstarter campaign and the resulting November was released on November 11, 2013. Accompanied by a full band to fill out their unique sound, this album answers the most common question the couple is asked, “What do you call this music?” You see, for Grace & Tony, November defines the sound “Grassphemy,” a progression of the style “Punkgrass.”
“This album is the next chapter for us, it’s a new set of stories we need to tell,” said Tony. “This music is more mature and shows our natural progression as songwriters. We battle tested the songs and chose the ones that would represent our growth as a duo.”
A lover of English literature and old-style murder mysteries, Grace’s influence on the album is stamped like an antique wax seal; it’s no accident that the album listen is like an epic musical storybook filled with engaging superhero-like characters struggling with love, loneliness, and the identity of self. November is 11 haunting and elegant chapters featuring heroic protagonists in a variety of settings taking on evil mastermind kidnappers, electromagnetic bombs, schizophrenia, and, perhaps the trickiest of all, their own minds. Those looking for that breathtaking happy ending won’t be disappointed either — as the stories come to a close, and an imaginary “The End” is heard, Grace & Tony live happily ever after.
More opportunities for Grace & Tony wait on the horizon; their dance card is filling up quickly as shows are added to their schedule on a regular basis (recently, they’ve shared the stage with folks like the Lone Bellow, Billy Joe Shaver, Dom Flemons, and Carolina Chocolate Drops, as well as hitting the high seas on the Cayamo music cruise, playing alongside the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby, and Lyle Lovett). To further the excitement, they got married in July 2013. Matrimony will no doubt provide more stories and be an influence as they solidify their union and create more music together.
So, as they continue to gain fans and industry acclaim, we can’t help but ask: What’s next for this amazing, super duo?
Well, we certainly can’t wait for the sequel.
Pop, Indie, Soul from Birmingham AL