Jason Isbell

Sadler Vaden #1609

Sadler Vaden released his debut full length solo album in August 2016. His DIY effort morphed and was scrapped then re-imagined and recorded over a few years. What ultimately became this upbeat, pop influenced rock record demonstrates Vaden’s expertise gleaned from fronting his own band in the early 2000s for 8 years, playing for Drivin N Cryin, and most recently for Jason Isbell. Even his cover of John Moreland’s song, “Nobody Cares About Songs Anymore,” becomes Vaden’s own, filtered through Big Star and Vaden’s own sensibilities.

Buy Sadler Vaden here on Amazon or here on iTunes.
Vinyl, CD, and digital available.

Sadler Vaden: New Music

sadlervadenIf you have followed Jason Isbell for the last couple of years, or Drivin N Cryin for a few years before that, you may have heard Sadler Vaden on lead guitar. Fewer fans know that Vaden formerly fronted the band, Leslie, of Charleston, South Carolina, and released a couple of solo albums during the transitions among those projects. In a recent Country Fried Rock podcast, Kevn Kinney of Drivin N Cryin lauded Vaden for re-invigorating the band and bringing the vision for their EP series, which he produced.

After more than a year of rumblings, Vaden confirmed that his new album is complete and will be released within the next year. As a special treat for fans, he is setting free an outtake, “Brand New Guitar” from the upcoming album’s sessions, which will be for sale this Friday via Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp and other digital outlets. Not just a writer and guitarist, he often gets behind the drum kit and more. Reminiscent of Southern college rock in the early 1980s, the tune balances pop and guitar in a way that teases Vaden’s own balancing act of playing for others while being a stellar music-maker on his own.

Drivin N Cryin #1522

Kevn Kinney of Drivin N Cryin has been a thread throughout my life in music, from teenage punk wannabe sneaking into clubs for shows (thanks, Randy!), to not getting hired at the first radio station I interviewed for because the program director told me he hated DNC and I defended them anyway (look who turned out to be right, Chris), to one of the very first radio shows on Country Fried Rock, before we had a podcast and were still streaming on Live 365, to now — me filling my dream of talking to the best songwriters about music I love and so many of y’all loving what we share. Kevn Kinney changed my life and now his band will be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.


Kevn Kinney is not stuck in the 1980s, though, and that is what makes his solo work interesting and also what keeps DNC vibrant. They are not a nostalgia band at all; in fact, their series of EP’s over the last couple of years, produced by Sadler Vaden (then, playing in DNC, now playing with Jason Isbell, but also a solid songwriter in his own right and his former band, Leslie), brought DNC to fresh territory and new audiences. I first learned about #CFRalum, Aaron Lee Tasjan, via Kevn, and Tasjan later played with the band for a while. (ALT also has a new album, In The Blazes.) Currently, Warner Hodges (solo, Jason & The Scorchers, Dan Baird) is bringing his guitar to the stage with the band.

Collaborations are Kinney’s behind-the-scenes hallmark, regularly writing with his pal, Todd Snider, and upcoming recordings with Chuck Mead (BR-549). Just as Peter Buck gave Kinney new platforms to share his writing with MacDougal Blues, Kinney does the same for folks like Findlay Brown, The Everyothers, and Angie Aparo (who sings like an angel, y’all). Kinney has at least four other records coming out in the next twelve months, keeping fans and new listeners on their toes. Catch a show, solo, band, or the special “And Friends” sets — you will be in for a treat.

Buy Drivin N Cryin or Kevn Kinney‘s music.

Stream or download below, or on SoundCloud.

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Hood – Isbell – Cooley reunite at the Shoals Theater

Another fabulous show review from Blake Ells! –SS

When I saw Jasper native and Drive-By Truckers bassist Matt Patton milling around the lobby at the Shoals Theater at 6:45 p.m. on Sunday, I knew this reunion would not be a full band show. And when, shortly after, I saw David Hood doing the same, I knew that it was just another night in Muscle Shoals. Both were among a collection of recognizable faces and smiles which also included Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard on hand for the Terry Pace benefit concert in Florence, an event which saw a rare gathering of Patterson Hood, Jason Isbell and Mike Cooley.

The Shoals Theater is on Seminary Street, a block away from Court, and it has stood through the most significant changes that the city has seen over the last half century. While there was Florence Alabama Music Enterprises churning out hit records, the Theater was, as Hood joked, across town showing “Pinocchio and every single Disney movie that was made.” And at some point, it was boarded up, and Hood “dreamed of making it the day he could play at the Shoals Theater.” Over the last 10 years or so, the area has been revitalized, and even though he’s already accomplished the dream, he returned for another intimate set for a worthy cause.

Just after 7 p.m., the trio took the stage while Hood shared that setup. Quickly, the “Hood – Isbell – Cooley” benefit before a room of 700 had become “Storytellers.” Hood opened by sharing stories about his first band with Cooley, Adam’s House Cat, before his first tune, “Tornadoes.” Tuscumbia native Cooley took his turn with “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” before Greenhill native and later addition to the band Isbell performed “Decoration Day.”

“When I joined this band, I was really young,” he began. “And when you’re that young you’re not that interesting. You don’t have stories to tell. So when your parents would tell you, ‘Now, I’ll tell you this story, but you can’t tell anyone,’ those were the interesting things you wrote about. I guess I could have changed the names,” he laughed.

The rotation continued for the duration. For nearly three hours, the trio swapped stories and shared their songs. Isbell dedicated “Outfit” to his father, in attendance, on Father’s Day, and Hood followed with the admission, “I’m sorry, dad. I love you as much as he loves his dad, but I never could write something to stand up to that.” He then introduced his own “Daddy Needs a Drink,” co-written by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Spooner Oldham.

The first deviation from Drive-By Truckers tunes came with “Cover Me Up,” the lead track from Isbell’s critically acclaimed 2013 release Southeastern. Hood performed “Grand Canyon,” a tune written in memory of close friend Craig Lieske and recorded on 2014’s English Oceans. And the trio closed its regular set with Isbell’s “Alabama Pines.”

Isbell once quipped of the trio’s sad songwriting, “I don’t want to write happy songs. This is an outlet. The guys writing happy songs have problems – like that nah nah nah nah HEY guy.” It was a pretty perfect summation of the band and the intimate evening, as the audience erupted in laughter.

The trio encored with, respectively, their most personal songs about the Shoals: Cooley with “Zip City,” Isbell with “Never Gonna Change” and Hood with “Let There Be Rock” before closing the evening with a cover of Wet Willie’s “Keep on Smilin.'” While it was all perfect, and while people that I had spoken to had traveled from as far as Colorado and West Virginia, everyone left with a barrier broken down. These three men are three of the South’s most talented song writers, but on this night, it was just another night in the Shoals.

SETLIST: Tornadoes – Carl Perkins’ Cadillac – Decoration Day – Heathens – Eyes Like Glue – TVA – Putting People on the Moon – Goddamn Lonely Love – My Sweet Annette – Women Without Whiskey – Outfit – Daddy Needs a Drink – Self Destructive Zone – Cover Me Up – The Living Bubba – Space City – Danko/Manuel – Grand Canyon – Cartoon Gold – Alabama Pines – ENCORE – Zip City – Never Gonna Change – Let There Be Rock – Keep on Smilin’ (Wet Willie cover)

Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes & Single Lock Records #1331

Ben Tanner might not be a readily recognizable name, but he is the “honorary member” or recording partner of nearly every band from Alabama that we have featured on Country Fried Rock: The Pollies, Belle Adair (coming soon), Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil, St. Paul & the Broken Bones (coming soon), and TheBear, John Paul White (of The Civil Wars), Alabama Shakes, Dylan LeBlanc, Jason Isbell, the Live From The Shoals series, and even Country Fried Rock Vol. 2 For Nuci’s Space — Preventing Musician Suicide. Together with John Paul White and Will Trapp, Tanner formed Single Lock Records recently, launching with three Alabama bands: TheBear (whose songs from Overseas Then Under we have featured on this radio show), Belle Adair , and St. Paul & The Broken Bones (also the current band of Browan Lollar, who we featured here after he left Jason Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit). It’s a small world in Southern indie music.

Tanner and Corey Hannah have an incredible video series called “Live From The Shoals,” too.  Tanner was not on the original recordings by Alabama Shakes, but he frequently sat in live with his friends, and when their popularity expanded exponentially, they wanted to replicate the keys on their recordings in their dynamic live shows, and Tanner came along for the ride, eventually touring relentlessly with the band and becoming an official member.  In their short breaks between tours, Tanner still records the music he loves from his friends’ bands, and supports the music they are making through Single Lock Records.  By his own admission, Tanner does not sleep much, and is a bit of a workaholic.  What really makes Tanner special, though, is his commitment to great music coming from his home region and using his own success to bring their albums to a broader audience.  He’s one of the good guys.

Liner Notes
Ben Tanner is involved in a lot of music projects. These are just a few he is directly and indirectly connected with, for this week’s playlist.


Browan Lollar #1319

Browan Lollar released For The Givers And The Takers, an EP of his songs backed by someone from each of the hottest bands in Alabama right now in the studio, then promptly joined St. Paul & The Broken Bones on-the-spot one week later.  In the craziness that ensued with joining that fantastic band, Lollar’s EP may not have gotten the attention it should.  As an artist, Lollar is more than a go-to guitar slinger, he also is a visual artist with many notable album covers in his portfolio.  He prefers a complicated scratch-etch with colored India ink method that yields intense designs  that lend themselves to graphic replication, and creatively, this allows him to distill the music he hears on an album into a visual thought that adds to the story.  Although you may know him more for playing with some other bands, Browan Lollar’s EP demonstrates that he has a lot to offer of his own music as well.

Buy For the Givers and the Takers here or Browan Lollar on iTunes.

Liner Notes
The Pollies Where the Lies Begin
St. Paul & The Broken Bones Free EP
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit (Deluxe)
Big Star #1 Record/Radio City
The Bear Overseas Then Under
Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil Victims, Enemies & Old Friends The song in this radio show is from their previous album, but they have a new one, too: Catch the Presidents
Pine Hill Haints Ghost Dance
Etta James Tell Mama The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions

Browan Lollar For The Givers & The Takers I don’t do track by tracks reviews, but I’ll give my impressions of some of these songs because I really like them.
“Freight Train Heart” reminds me of the Replacements a little bit. You know I love them times eleventy zillion.
“Cars” I don’t think they know each other, but this song reminds me of The District Attorneys.
“Hotel Bars and Ringing Ears” Mellow interlude.
“One In Every Color” Intro builds like something familiar? What is it? This song has the lyrics for the title, “For the givers and the takers,” a phrase used regularly by my best friend. This is a dark tune…
“30 Nails” A delicate duet about divorce, that has a shift midway and the instrumentation really spreads the mood. I’m struck by the comments made by BJ Barham of American Aquarium on one of their songs about Bill Corbin’s divorce, “This is a song about divorce and how much it sucks.”

Here’s a gallery of some of Browan’s album cover art:

Contact Browan Lollar for cover art work through Twitter @BrowanLollar

#1241 The Pollies

The Pollies’ record almost did not happen. Songwriter, Jay Burgess, began recording some of the songs nearly 2 years ago, in what he now considers demo tapes, but the intent was not to make a record; it was merely a side-project from his previous band, Sons of Roswell. As it became apparent that Sons of Roswell were fading away, Burgess’ writing never ceased, and the demo recordings became more of a focus. Fellow musician friends from the Shoals area of Alabama (the “Quad Cities”) came and went with the project, leaving national acts to go solo again and others finding an international audience seemingly overnight for their other bands. Thus has been the whirlwind impacting what has ultimately become Where the Lies Begin, The Pollies’ debut record on This Is American Music record label.

Essentially, the album was recorded twice. Chris James (also formerly of Sons of Roswell), Daniel Stoddard (who also plays with Dylan LeBlanc), Matt Green (also with Belle Adair), Ben Tanner (also with the Alabama Shakes), and Reed Watson round out the current lineup for the Pollies, demonstrating the interwoven, mutually supportive music community of the Shoals. Mutual friends’ support for the demos and internet leaks of songs via YouTube ultimately led Burgess to bring focus to the Pollies project and make it a real band with a real focus on making a record. As it all came together, the visual presentation of the album helped define its title and ultimately, the theme: Where the Lies Begin.

Chris James had the idea for a bird’s nest and reverse side of an album cover with smashed eggs in a nest for a long time, but it was in discussing the songs on this record with Burgess that the complete concept revealed itself. In what others have described as “Southern Gothic rock and roll,” sometimes the adult realization that the stories your family tells about itself are not accurate. The deeper story that lies beneath is darker, more uncomfortable, and less simplistic than the tales we repeat trying to make them be true. A favorite uncle might also beat his wife. Your granddad might have spent his life abusing your grandmother. What happened behind closed doors does not go away by ignoring it. Such are the stories that lead to where these lies began.

Thank you for purchasing the songs in this radio show! Your purchase supports the musicians and this program. We appreciate you.

  • The Pollies Where the Lies Begin “Good for Nothing,” “Something New,” “Little Birdie” (Direct from their labelWhere the Lies Begin - The Pollies
  • Ramones “Commando” Ramones
  • Doc Dailey “Picture Frames” from the upcoming release (International debut of this song!) Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil
  • Belle Adair “No Reply” Belle Adair
  • Sons of Roswell “In the Moonlight” (not available on Amazon or iTunes)
  • Alabama Shakes (from their original EP when they were still a four-piece called The Shakes, before Ben was regularly part of the touring band) “On Your Way” Alabama Shakes
  • Jason Isbell “In a Razor Town” (chosen because the lyrics reference a female character with abuse in her past, as part of the conversation about truth revelaing itself in our personal stories) Jason Isbell
  • Centro-Matic “Twenty Four” Centro-Matic
  • Neutral Milk Hotel “Holland, 1945” Neutral Milk Hotel

Country Fried Rock


#1235 American Aquarium

American Aquarium‘s sixth album, Burn. Flicker. Die. , extends the reach of the North Carolina band, down I-95 and across I-20 to Texas. For the past five years, American Aquarium has toured 300 dates per year, mainly within the Southeast, yet their foray into Texas led them to Red Dirt and Texas Country music, expanding their fan base and the music that speaks to their songwriter, BJ Barham. Until January of this year (2012), all of these dates happened due to Barham’s alter ego, Bradley Thompson, chief booking agent and public relations magnate. Many independent bands use this ruse, but few are as successful playing this game as he was.

Barham’s professionalism and singular focus forging American Aquarium into his lifelong career, and not just a hobby, have yielded natural and sometimes painful changes along the way. From the early days of a rotating cast of friends and players for occasional local gigs, through statewide and then regional touring, to constantly living on the road with a band that’s been “all in” for the last four years, Barham’s vision does not allow slackers. The beauty of bringing on management, a tour manager, and press is that Barham is free to be part of the band–grumbling about wake-up calls with the guys, instead of being the band mother and father keeping everyone on the path.

One of the intentional sonic choices of American Aquarium that intrigues us is their choice to work with different producers for each record. All of Barham’s songs begin as folk songs on acoustic guitar. As the band line-up has solidified in the last few years, the method in which a song develops has naturally changed, too. At first, songs were fleshed out with Barham’s supervision, and now they blossom from their origins with more trust and input from the band members themselves. Choosing different producers brings a different shine to each record. From legendary Southern musician, Chris Stamey (Alex Chilton, Mitch Easter, The dB’s, Scott Litt–we’re all about the six degrees of R.E.M.), producing Dances for the Lonely (calling upon backing vocals from Caitlin Cary of Whiskeytown again), to stretching their comfort zone by writing all the songs in the studio, writing in the morning, recording in the afternoon, mixing in the evening and never looking back on Small Town Hymns, to ultimately determining that they were a band who needs to let songs find themselves on the road first, and record them in a comfortable setting with friends.

The latter is how American Aquarium ended up working with Jason Isbell to produce Burn. Flicker. Die. Recorded by Jimmy Nutt at the Nutthouse in Sheffield, Alabama, the Muscle Shoals influence and critical ear of legends who happen to be friends, made this studio process the most comfortable and creative thus far. When hanging out playing pool a couple years ago, Isbell goaded Barham, “When are you gonna let me produce one of your records?” and Barham jokingly replied, “You got the next one!” Once the guys were ready to record, the band mates did not believe Isbell had really offered to produce with them. Barham called him up, and within two days had the studio and dates lined up. Working with peers whom they trust and respect brings American Aquarium’s music to new levels with each release.


Songs in this radio show include:

  • American Aquarium Burn. Flicker. Die. “Cape Fear River,” “Savannah Almost Killed Me,” “Saturday Nights”
  • Ryan Adams Heartbreaker [Explicit] “To Be Young” (NOTE: This song is not explicit.)
  • J Roddy Walston and the Business J Roddy Walston And The Business “Pigs & Pearls”
  • The Hold Steady Separation Sunday “Stevie Nix”
  • The Lumineers The Lumineers “Flapper Girl” (partial song at the end of the episode) NOTE: We chose the Lost Attic Tapes version, currently available legally, for free on Noisetrade, but we do not know how long it will remain available there.
  • Corb Lund Cabin Fever “Bible on the Dash” (featuring Hayes Carll) NOTE: We purchased the original version of this record, and only recently learned of the Deluxe Edition. You should buy the Cabin Fever (Limited Deluxe Edition). 😉 Even more awesomeness.

NOTE: Burn. Flicker. Die. will not be released until Tuesday, when we will add those songs to the Spotify player.