The Amanda Interview

Tonight in Nashville, Trisha Ivy, Mike Beck, and Miss Amanda Neill will be playing their first show outside of NYC together. I’m confident the unsuspecting folks at The Basement will find themselves blown away.

This interview took place in October. It is this late because I can be lazy, and I hate transcribing interviews. I hate it like I hate hell, and like I hate all Montegues (A li’l nod to Billy Shakes, y’all!).

Before the interview I met up with Amanda at Roots Cafe. We were going to do the interview in her backyard, but construction work made that impossible. We stuffed her bag with some snacks and beers and headed off to Greenwood Cemetery, where neither of us had been. We drank PBR from thermoses. We sat amongst the rotting dead. We talked about faith and good fortune.

I knew it would be God-heavy. I worried it may be a disconnect for me. However, there arose a more important thread in our conversation. Harmony. The young woman as only ever aspired to be a voice that lifts other voices, and is lifted by the voices of others. I knew her when she first came to Brooklyn, a bundle of wild energy. I am happy she has found Jamey Hamm, and Trisha Ivy, and Mike Beck. I know it’s funny to say, but I’m glad she found people who know what to do with her.

Y’all get to know Amanda Simpson Neill! AN Cemetery 3

No Rotten Apples Here

Last weekend TRS got to check out the Rotten Apple Roots & Bluegrass Halloween show at Union Hall.

Union HallI like Union Hall. Upstairs feels like a fancy college study hall. There are book lined wooden shelves. There is leather furniture on which to lounge as people come and go, and talk about comedic political news shows–in this muttering retreat. There are two bocce ball courts whose whimsy-seeming, deliberate presence feels a bit pretentious, more so than the books or the furniture, but I only say this out of spite because I’ve never had an opportunity to play due to its popularity. I love bocce ball. The academic atmosphere is a good cover for the music/entertainment venue Union Hall holds downstairs. It allows any of the myriad style shows, from comedy to techno-bluegrass, to appear as an independent study in culture, appreciation, and relevance to society at large. The irony runs high and sublime. I may not win any friends there saying it isUnion Hall 2 steeped in the brand of hipster that exults in the scholastic, the esoteric education that fills the pages of The Believer, and exactitude in knowledge of bands that will in time be as forgotten as any, or as played out as the rest. The establishment has an aim and it hits it mark. I like Union Hall. And if my back-handed compliment seems needlessly acerbic it is because the irony runs high, if not sublime, in me, as well. I used a T.S. Elliot phrase in this paragraph, I’ve had a subscription to both The Believer and McSweeney’s, and I write to you from my niche Brooklyn country music blog. So, let us go then, you and I, on this soft Halloween night, downstairs to hear the rockabillies, the fiddlers, southern gothic rockers, and banjo pickers while upstairs the people come and go, talking of comedic political news shows.

2 Cent Band 2First up was Seth Kessel and the 2 Cent Band, and boy was I pleased to at last hear some rockabilly! I have been hoping for this style of music since starting the blog, and was a feared that I’d have to make a special trek out to find it. Thankfully, it came to where I was already going to be at! I couldn’t tell if Mr. Kessel had come dressed up as a swinging rockabilly star, or if he was just himself. He and his band did a stellar cover of Elvis Presley’s “One Night With You.” On a side note I must give kudos to Alex Mallett (standing in on bass) whose costume consisting of a mix of sport clothing and business suit with loud, garish colors was dubbed “Clash Action Suit.”

Rotten Montge 2Second on stage was the Melody Allegra Band. It was Halloween, but it felt like my birthday, y’all! (I apologize for being blatantly corny, and dumb, and ugly, but most of you guys are dumb and ugly! [Sorry, that was uncalled for.]) A few days prior to this show I was openly wishing I could catch some fiddle playing in a show we covered. Melody Allegra Berger brought that fiddle! And she fiddled the shit out of that fiddle! To mine and the audience’s immense pleasure she closed with a cover of MJ’s “Thriller.”

B&B 3In the tertiary (Trying to get in more of that intellectual hoodoo I imbued in that first paragraph up there.) spot came a thundering Barefoot & Bankside with their usual earth quaking energy. A mummified Trisha Ivy joined them in a cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s sexually charged “I Put A Spell On You.”

Up top, them's Dancegrass

Up top, them’s Dancegrass

Closing out the night was one of the most curious, and fascinating bands I’ve seen since that cracked motherfucker Matt Frye. Dancegrass was a banjo led bluegrass outfit with a modern as all hell twist. They plucked, and strummed over electronic beats. It mixed unsurprisingly very well! You can put a banjo over just about anything. Front man for Dancegrass is Alex Borsody and he put this show together, and got me and intrepid photog, Andreea, on the guest list—like bonafide journalists! So, congratulations to him and all the musicians for a great and successful show! Rotten Apple Roots & Bluegrass Halloween will be back next year, and, please, check out our calendar to see these BK Country folks out and about in the city.

HEY!:

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All Work and All Play

It is not just out of laziness that I keep this post short, but the intrepid photographer, Andreea, kicks so much ass that I want her pics to run this entry. Enjoy!

montage 1

B&B Pre 1

Amanda was seriously fretting that her outfit was too revealing. Bless her heart!

The Road Southern caught another Barefoot & Bankside and Trisha Ivy set at Rockwood Music Hall, and it should be a surprise to no one that both sets were phenomenal. They let us hang around with them before the show. I got to hear Trisha Ivy, Mike Beck, and Amanda Neill practice a song in the green room. In that small room I found myself in a moment I had been hoping for since starting this blog. I got to witness a bit of the “work” that makes a show. Listening to their first play through, I thought it immensely pleasurable to watch them correct each other on notes that my lay ears thought were executed perfectly, then they corrected, and I thought, oh, Jesus, damn!

montage 2

To test out how good the sound quality is on my voice recorder I recorded Amanda Neill and Jamey Hamm rehearsing their cover of Shovel & Rope’s “The Devil is All Around.” The quality is on the low to mid side of decent. The recording doesn’t come close to the actual performance of the song, of course. I really love the feeling I got witnessing them ironing out any kinks before the show. Amanda and Jamey were about two feet apart facing each other. Both were keeping a close eye on the other. Myself and others were in the room, but Amanda and Jamey were in the song. Something about how quickly they correct themselves toward the end was where the bit o’ magic was for me. And, of course, I like the smart ass comments by band mates.

montage 4

What did give me a surprise was opener Dylan Sneed. I’d seen him play at Roots Café where it was just himself a couple times. He’s a great song writer, and exemplary on guitar. At Rockwood he had a full band backing him. They blew me and everyone else away. I knew he could sing and play, but it was something else to see him rock!

montage 3

HEY!:

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Contact us at theroadsouthern@gmail.com

From Here, Where?

I’ve been trying to write something, anything but this for the past week. The Trisha interview threw me for a loop, and sent me reeling. She did so inadvertently, of course. She said “started back at zero.” She said she was cynical and biting to the point that she hurt people. She said that after her brother’s death, humor became the default operating system for all her social interactions, and that she stayed away from any other emotions.

It was the starting back at zero comment. I hadn’t heard that exact phrasing before, not outside of my own head. Then she listed a shared symptom, humor as both sword and shield to fend off and defend from real emotions, and people, and how people can grow into you, and how people can suddenly go. Then she said how she was sad for ten-plus years, and didn’t even really know it.

I came to Brooklyn at zero.

There was a girl, and she was the one I loved the most. Many years I loved her. Many years she loved me. Then a freak bout of lung cancer claimed her. I left my home in Georgia, because the heart I loved best had left me. My world was made beaconless. It is a profound feeling to become untethered. Value-wise there is suddenly no difference between the raindrops on your face and a parking lot; between the others dying in the hospital and these very live ones going about their day before you. No difference between your best friends and shuffling strangers. So, what do you do? Shuffle on now that you’re the stranger, for the way is forward, is it not?

Funny thing that. Forward is omni-directional. Any which way I face from here is forward.

I used humor in my early days to stave off bullying in my trailer park. Then to win friends. Then to make her laugh. I was an atheist heathen then, and she a faithful Christian. The God-loving, life-loving girl would laugh at my darkest jokes. I don’t know how we got along so well being so fundamentally different. She could get me out of my head. It’s been hell not having someone who can do that.

In NY the humor has been to beguile workmates and others into believing there is a friendship, but what have I ever revealed of myself? Not a thing. Trust me, make people laugh consistently and they won’t want you to do anything else. It’s nice. Yet, an interesting thing has occurred. I do not joke or act funny around these southern souls I’ve met and am coming to know. The notion of keeping up an act suddenly becomes exhausting to me around them. So, I smile and nod my head struggling to fathom what else is there to say other than a joke. “How’s it going?” That sounds like something regular people say, right?

I made jokes about meeting Amanda (of Barefoot & Bankside) in an earlier post. I joked about not knowing if I liked her or not due to her unending saccharine hyperbole. The truth is I glimpsed a spark inside Amanda that I came to recognize because of that girl. I know Amanda will read this. She’ll probably give me a big hug, which is a less irksome thing to me nowadays. In a dark little room in a basement, I think Amanda was the first person I told about her. Believe it or not, Amanda was actually quiet. In a good way.

That spark is in Jamey Hamm, and Trisha Ivy, too. It is in Amanda’s husband, Christian (he read my novel, he said he liked it). It is there in Andreea, the intrepid photographer. It’s just about damn near everywhere if you can find the right eyes to see it. Their music, their stories, their photographs have become my right eyes through which I can glimpse a world still full of kindness, and joviality. It’s still somehow a decent place to live despite her absence. The road southern is not the way back. It is not the road home. It only leads forward from here.

The Trisha Debacle

Trish Interview

Oh, were it that Trisha showed up to the interview drunk and make-up smeared, hitting me up for cash for her cab fare, and that was the debacle of which I lament. And lament I do, damn it! I have been woe begotten, I have been beset upon and off…putted (I think that’s a thing.) since Trisha Ivy sat across from me smiling, shining, a happy and eager girl. The interview went very well. In Freddy’s dark ill lit backroom where this took place she was as sunlight pouring through an open door. I, however, friends… I, sitting opposite her, was the very opposite of her. I had literally just come off a sick spell. I had no sleep the night before. It felt as though a cannon ball had lodged itself in my sinus cavity. And my voice was made just as low as I was feeling.

I let the happy and eager girl tell all she had to tell. My thinking was to post a short printed version of the interview, then embed the thing in its entirety so you all could hear the musician speak for herself. But the mic had a hard time with my unnaturally deepened voice, and when I eliminated interview ruining background noise it subtracted from my voice, as well, and to the degree that I sounded like a drunken murmuring hobo. So, I’ve had to transcribe the 45 minutes of our enlightening conversation for print. It’s taken over a week!

Overall, it’s a good interview. It was our first conversation. Over the year of being at her shows I had begun making guesses as to who she might be off stage. I was tickled to learn my guessing was wrong and the truth is far more interesting, as it tends to be.

So, you can either click here for the interview, or click up there next to “Roots” where I’ve given Trisha her own page.

Enjoy, with love,

Jody and The Road Southern

 

Roots Family Pictorialathonarama!

A Night of Song and Feast and Miller High Lifes

Pics by badass rad assassin Andreea Radulescu

Join us, won't you?

Join us, won’t you?

Roots Family Reunion is a night of celebration for the tight knit community of South Slope (and beyond) musicians, artists and proprietors. These photos are from the 4th annual iteration, and The Road Southern was damn happy bear witness to it!

God and Country!

God and Country!

Even God made an appearance to show support! But, then got way too drunk, way too early. I mean, He was ok. He didn’t do anything terrible, per se. It was just weird, I guess. A little too rowdy for the room, maybe.

 

Bambarger, Hair products for your face!

Bambarger, Hair products for your face!

Bambarger‘s beard products looked so fine that despite having shaved that morning, I forced out a beard on the spot. Hurt like a son of a bitch, but thanks to them, I have the finest beard in Brooklyn. Go get your beard did!

 

That Moon

Moon Shine

That Moon in full shine.

 

 

Flirt Vendor

They have write ups in New York Mag, and Time Out New York and everything, y’all!

Flirt Boutique. I was hoping this was a kissing booth.

the Cornell BrosThe Cornell Bros.

Write your parents. They're worried. They only know Brooklyn from the movies.

Write your parents. They’re worried. They only know Brooklyn from the movies.

Ryan LammA little Ryan Hamm of the Barnyard Brothers, and Justin Kilburn surprising the hell out of me on steel guitar. (pictured right)

Gypsy George

Ladies and gents, Gypsy George!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Frye and Chris MurphyMatt Frye, whose music tickles my soul, and Chris Q Murphy who may become my Virgil through BK Country.

B&BBarefoot & Bankside. Jamey Hamm is the man who puts Roots Family Reunion together. Thank ‘im when you see ‘im.

Kinda feeling like I should be paying my photographer.

Kinda feeling like I should be paying my photographer.

And Miss Trisha Ivy. I swear, I never would have thought a voice could be caught on camera.

The Way Is Forward

B&B

Amanda & Jamey American Gothic Style

Jamey Hamm had a little baby girl. Amanda Neill bought Roots Café from him so that he could be a stay at home dad. This was back in February. There was little BK Country for me at that time, yet I still hatched the idea to begin a blog revolving around the southern/country scene of Brooklyn and NYC at large. I swear it’s that photo of Trisha Ivy that got me saying “BK Country.” Maybe something Jamey said or wrote…? “BK Country.” That sounds like a thing, doesn’t it? Feels like a thing, anyway. Thing enough for me to start this. Somewhere in that BK Country lull, I heard a song. It gave me the title of this blog, and once the blog had a name, lull or not, it was time to begin.

Right?

Right?

The first show I went to with notebook in hand was Trisha’s performance at Hometown BBQ. This was also my first trek into Red Hook. Geographically speaking, it’s close by, but no trains go there. Busses barely go there. However, my bicycle got me there in a flash. It’s odd when a city has remote areas within itself. This makes bicycle travel feel freeing. There were people I wanted to invite to the show, but they would not be able to make the journey without more planning. Not me. One pant leg hiked up to keep it out of the gears and with the wind in my hair, I got there faster than cars, even. Once inside Hometown, I said, hi, to Amanda and her husband, and took a spot at the bar. The interior of Hometown BBQ is that of a road house. Big open floors with old-wood tables. A couple of giant ‘Merican flags. They smoke their own meats in house. A ball field is next door, and a softball team was in line with me. There were families. There were fat old men and women. There was beer and whiskey. It felt like I was back home. Later, I would be surprised the owner, Billy Durney, is Brooklyn born and raised. A big fella, his attire struck me as “Walter” from The Big Lebowski. He traveled around the south, all of it. He said he liked what he saw, and liked what he ate.

Trisha IvyTrisha played. She had a guitarist, Mike Beck, that picked and strummed as country as any, but I found out he, too, is a Yankee, and a jazz trained one at that. Amanda got up on stage with her. They make a unique pair, Trisha and Amanda. Amanda who retains a Sunday modesty in her dress; very humble, but not at all shy. Trisha, with a measure of flare, asserts herself before her audience. Amanda, a raw and reactive nerve in regards to that voice of hers. Trisha exudes more control as she reigns in and unleashes accordingly. Jamey has this quality, as well. This is not to say Amanda is wild or impulsive. She simply gets lost in a song, and Trisha and Jamey are wise to let her.

There was a ton of food afterwards, and plenty more drinks. I got to meet everybody. Amanda’s husband, Christian, advised me to seek out The Lone Bellow who live in Brooklyn. Riding home on my bike drunk was its own liberation. Until I got to 4th Ave, it seemed like I was the only soul in Brooklyn. The air was chill, and at night even the Gowanus canal can appear charming. I thought about the idea of making The Lone Bellow a mission. I thought about Trisha helping to clean the restaurant after we ate, and Amanda’s new ownership of Roots Café. I thought of all the hours I’ve put into day jobs here. Work, toil, is not meaningless in this city. At least, not for those of us who came here with the wholly daunting and nigh-unreachable goal of becoming who we know we can be. A father. A successful business owner. A BK Country star. A real writer.

The song that brought me this blog’s name is not a country song, and not from the south. In fact, if someone had described it to me, I probably wouldn’t listen. It’s not necessarily my thing. But its post-industrial rhythms, its art-pop ambition, and its encouraging lyrics that never dip into platitudes give me a sense of trudging forward, maintaining vision, and keeping balance. It’s become my anthem.

Trisha Ivy And My Forgotten Country

I think this is why I started saying "BK Country"

I think this is why I started saying “BK Country”

I’ve been introduced to Trisha Ivy on a few occasions. The first time I met her she was sitting on a stoop with Amanda outside of Bar 4 after a Barefoot & Bankside show. She didn’t perform. She was just there for support. She’s another hailing from Tennessee. Trisha is very pretty. I state that as a fact. Long, curly blonde hair. Big dark eyes, and a shining smile. Something deep down in those dark eyes, though, tells me she won’t put up with a schlub or an ass for too long. There’s nothing mean in them. At every encounter she’s flashed the warm smile and said, hi. I don’t know, maybe I was just suddenly feeling like a schlub and an ass before her. She’s very pretty. That’s a fact.

The next few times I would see her she did perform. Her shows are solid. Trisha is a charismatic singer. When she bellows a sad, somber note I feel for her. When she gets a little ruckus going, I really wish someone would teach me a country dance because toe tapping and head nodding don’t really speak my heart. Christ, is this silly wording latent, resilient country boy, or a newly acquired affectation? Whichever, Trisha’s music, like B&B, inspires me to join in. I hope I can convey the achievement that this is as this blog continues. I meant to leave my home in Georgia. I never meant to (re)ingratiate myself with the southern/country scene, ANY southern/country scene.

B&B is a band in its infancy, still trying to find and secure their groove. Trisha Ivy, on the other hand, seems to have her act together, literally. Her sets are paced well. She knows after a couple of sad songs when the patrons are staring a little too sullenly into their beers to kick it up and give them something to move to. She even has patter and jokes between songs. That sort of thing pleases me, when the stage time and the show has a “just another gig” quality, but only when it’s backed by sincere enjoyment and dedication as her gigs are. She has a day job, night job, rather, as a bartender at Hometown BBQ in Redhook (more on that joint later). This aspect draws me to her, as well. It’s obvious she came to Brooklyn to bust ass. She’s very pretty, but she doesn’t rely on that, and she doesn’t need to. I can relate to her. Not in the good looks department. Jesus, maybe not in the talent department either. I came here with a complete manuscript of my novel thinking “realistically” I’ll be a big billy badass paid writer within about two years. I’m in my sixth year. I work in a restaurant. You feel me?

I bought her ep, “Cotton Country.” At the time I found it I could have gotten it for free, but I went to amazon.com, anyway. It was five bucks, which is nothing, especially for her songs, and I wanted to help out, because with this blog and these new found good times here in the city, I feel I am being helped. I agree there’s a more traditional pop appeal to her than, say, with B&B. She doesn’t have the hard-rocker edge I normally lean toward in my listening life, nor is she trying to be a hard rocker. Her songs are melodic, pretty. Listening to the ep with my headphones on the R train I was able to hear the lyrics much clearer than I could while half-lit checkin’ her set out at Hometown or Union Hall. She’s a talented writer. Co-existing with the prettiness of her music are lyrics that bespeak a soul who’s been around, and is being honest about it. She has wit, grit, and an excellent grasp on succinct storytelling in a song.

Trisha 3 by Beth

Thanks to Bethany Michaela for this pic.

I know I don’t speak too well of my hometown, because of its history and my own history and experiences there. However, I do have friends and family there, and beside them are good memories. Listening to that Tennessee girl up there on the stage, well, it helps to shed some of the southern grudge. Some cracks in my shell have recently been discovered, and Trisha’s music pries at them making me remember southern sweetness. I used to climb Sawnnee Mountain with friends. We smoked cigarettes and looked down upon our little town. We all had a dream of leaving it. We knew more had to be out there in the world. I had picnics in fields under a shady tree with my beautiful sweethearts who would provide all the food and blankets because I was a mostly worthless boy. I could make them laugh, though. Here I am now in the big city far, far away from home and a long time gone. And here, now, are these wonderful new southern friends set in my path with their familiar accents, and their kind hearts. Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe I was a mostly worthless boy for too long, blind from dreaming too much. Maybe I squandered too many kind hearts in my life. You feel me?