Dead Fingers: A Down-Home Band With a Trick Finger On The Pulse Of Birmingham’s Blooming Music Culture

I have a fantasy that just got tricky on me.  When work makes up the beginning, middle, and end of my day, I imagine ditching it all; escaping to a pawn shop and falling in love with a weathered old guitar wallowing amongst some books in a corner.  After sensing my interest, the shopkeeper politely suggests one of the newer, shinier ones hanging proudly up above.  “Naw,” I’d whisper caressing Maurice, (I named my guitar Maurice), “ you’re the one.”

With Maurice in tote,  I’d travel the countryside, hitching rides along the way, until meeting a ruggedly handsome man named Tuck , and shortly then after, forming the folk duo “Folks Who Folk” together.  Suddenly, however, my fantasy parade just got rained on.  Whatever vagabond visions and wanderlust whimsies I dared to dream, well they just got their thunder broke , the moment I heard the Dead Fingers’ sing “Shoom Doom Babba Labba” off their most recent album, Big Black Dog.  Ala-freakin-bama! I’m slapping myself out of it now, because the real life of these two down-home Americana honeys, just seems so much heartier than my fantasy ever was.

This Birmingham-based band  who is “living the fantasy”, is made up of married singer/ songwriters, Taylor and Kate Hollingsworth, and drummer, Alan Rosser. Together they blend a sunny Alabama disposition with bluesy folk tracks, making a music magic that explores the harmony of contrasts deliciously.  Taylor and Kate’s voices melt together; hers sultry, soothing, and solid, his high-pitcched, ribbity and tattered.  Taking turns, they highlight each other’s vocals with connected balance  — one never seems to dominate the other—with lyrics written and sung with sweet soulful sincerity.  You can feel the laid-back love these two share in songs like, “Free Tonight,” and the longing for peace-of-mind in songs like “Still Haven’t Been Satisfied”, both off their newest release “Black Dog” .

Even though my folksy fantasy may be dashed, my heart is warmed when hearing “On My Way”; a track off their earliest album. There is something about the unexpected harmony these two bring to the table, that reflects the easy breeziness of something other worldly–a something reminiscent in the way the legendary classic Americana duo, June Carter and Johnny Cash, mended melodies together into a sonic suture so strong and true;  that stuff of soul mates our sentimental hearts just can’t stop craving.

While the band’s first, self-titled album featured a number of standout songs, that hinted toward a bright partnership,  such as “Lost In Mississippi” , “Another Planet” and “Rings Around Saturn“, it came across as more of an experiment to find their sounds, than a comprehensive detailing of them. Nevertheless, seeing the transitions and explorations the band has taken, only nourishes a fondness for them. Their second endeavor, with added member Alan Rosser, has all of the consistency the last album searched for, while still managing to maintain the innocence and expansiveness of the premiere album. 

Both Taylor and Kate have had promising music careers apart from each other.  Taylor toured with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and recorded a solo 7-inch record with the famous Oxford, Mississippi label, Fat Possum Records.  Kate, who comes from a musical lineage, toured with her sister, Neo-Folk artist Maria Taylor, adding vocals and playing various instruments in the band.

 

Together though, Taylor and Kate possess a unique and endearing sound that emphasizes their individual strengths rather than detracting from them. In November 2012, the couple welcomed daughter, Ava into the world.  The band recorded their second album during Kate’s pregnancy, and Ava joined them on a European tour not long after the birth.  With assistance from Kate’s mother, who adds support along the way to help take care of Ava while on the road, the band has been able to continue touring.  They finished their summer U.S. tour in early August, and have been enjoying playing local venues in Birmingham  (like the Bottletree)  and other Alabama cities for the past few months.

The band is part of a growing music scene in the ‘Magic City’, and a movement to revive the once destitute downtown area into an oasis of artist culture. Things have been blossoming beautifully from everything seen and heard, encouraging local artists to thrive in their own back yards, instead of having to uproot and move half way across the country.  

The fact is, just like any other start up, a music band has similar challenges–keeping talent together, staying creative, and keeping the will intact while trucking along that big dream highway. All the while keeping everything afloat finance wise, and basically keeping the faith even when you don’t know the exact hour of things, or where the next break is going to take you. So if you can tap into a supportive community while staying put close to home, that may help to take a load off. Places like Birmingham seem to be providing a happy nesting ground.

A big part of  Birmingham’s charm is that the community cares about revitalization, providing a fertile hot spot for art to flourish. With no signs of going back, this Alabama town is growing artists from where they sprout,  just like an “art friendly” incubator. Hollingsworth acknowledges the signs of this new sonic bloom in Birmingham, and had this to say recently, 

“Yesterday we were on the local radio station that is two doors down from our record label in a part of town that years ago was a ghetto,” he says. “And now, it’s this fruitful, cool, happening neighborhood. There’s tons of art everywhere now.” 

Support for their sound has come from local radio stations like Substrate Radio, (nestled nearby their record label Communicating Vessels),  as well as from stations farther away, such as WUOG 90.5 in Athens, Georgia and WBEQ 90.7 in Chicago.  As Dead Fingers’ popularity increases and their audience expands worldwide, the little part in all of us that wishes we could run away, leave our worries behind, and join a folk band,  can at least revel in the soundtrack of two people who are living the dream in sweet southern style.

 

collaboratively written by @offtherecord and @airambrosia

edited by @airambrosia

 

* WorldTourThursday FeaturedArtist on RadioFlag

 

 

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The Rise Of Wray – A Power Gaze Band Shaking Up Alabama

So how does a recently formed band who released their premiere album in July of this year, manage to get the attention of music writers from the New York Times, Vice, and, possibly coolest of all, The Nerdist? Some may claim that the rapid success of Birmingham band, Wray, stems from their lo-fi, fuzzy guitar riffs overlaid by apathetic melodies, which in true shoe-gaze fashion, sinks the languid listener into the dark blue reflective recesses of their soul. It’s easy to imagine something seductive, perhaps even sinister is at play among Wray’s sound. The druid-esque chants crafted by this explorative music brewing triad, stir hauntingly just underneath a powerful mortar of sound, which lures its audience into a trance-like state, until, acoustically anesthetized and incapable of escape, they melodically succumb to its genius.

Possible subliminal messaging aside, Wray’s psychedelic distortions should come with a warning label. Caution: side effects may include uncontrollable swaying, intense head and neck swoons, and digressions of thought. This is not music to clean the house to; but may be considered as music fit for pondering the infinite expansion of the Universe to.


Wray is comprised of David Swatzer on guitar and vocals, David Brown on bass and vocals, and Blake Wimberly on drums. In listening to their Eponymous album, it becomes evident that although this is their first album together, these are musicians who have been honing their sound for the past decade in various other endeavors like, Last Flight In, Comrade, and Nightmare Waterfall.

Few bands would dare take you down the shadowy, guitar driven path of a four minute instrumental interlude, but Wray goes there in the song “May 15”, and the result is a hypnotic rise and decay of reverberations with a sweet, surf-poppy payoff.

Every song off their album has a brooding obscurity to it. A moody complexion reminiscent of Depeche Mode, comes through especially, in the single “Apacheria.”

Though there is nothing inherently colloquial about their music, Wray’s claim to Birmingham is apparent in its participation in the rise along with a lot of new talent coming out of the region. Wray has played with local band, The Dirty Lungs on many occasions, most recently at their indie label, Communicating Vessels’, showcase in New York. They also opened for Stone Temple Pilots in October, after they rounded off their U.S. summer tour with Man Or Asto-Man in Septemer. Radio play for Wray has thus far come from Substrate Radio and Fearless Radio, but if their quick rise to popularity among critics translates to a larger fan base, they’ll be getting more live radio play and adding many more stations to that list soon.

written by @offtherecord edited by @airambrosia

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