Zero Mile Presents
Justin Townes Earle, Valley Queen
Sat · September 22, 2018
Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm
$41.00 - $175.00
This event is 18 and overhttps://www.georgiatheatre.com/event/1694981/
Here's how you know you've made it in the music business: You've stayed strong for three decades on your own terms, on your own time, by your own rules, and over that time your influence has only grown. Each of your albums has been stronger than your last. You've been brought onstage by Bruce Springsteen, because he wanted to play one of your songs. You've seen high times and low ones, good days and tragic days, but every night you give 100%, and every morning you wake up still swinging.
This is the short version of the Social Distortion bio —the long version could be a 10-part mini-series. But over the past 30 years, the punk godfathers in the band have all but trademarked their sound, a brand of hard rockabilly/punk that's cut with the melodic, road-tested lyrics of front man Mike Ness. Their searing guitars and a locomotive rhythm section sound as alive today as they did in '82, as do Ness' hard-luck tales of love, loss and lessons learned. "The most common thing I hear is, 'Man, your music got me through some hard times,'" Ness says. "And I just say, 'Me too.'"
Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes (produced, for the first time, by Ness himself) is the band's first record since 2004. For a band with a career spanning over 30 years, Social Distortion experienced a significant amount of firsts in 2011. For starters, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 and was the highest debut that the band has yet seen. Hard Times was also the #1 Independent Album and the #2 Modern Rock/Alternative Album week of release. The band also made their late night television debut when they performed "Machine Gun Blues" on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and later played for Conan on Hard Times’ release date. Taking their successes to the road, Social Distortion played European festivals including Reading and Leeds for the first time. They also booked their first tours of Australia and South America. And finally, Social Distortion played Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Festival, and Coachella –all of these for the first time.
Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes has Social Distortion's key components —their patented mix of punk, bluesy rock n’ roll and outlaw country —while also stretching the boundaries of their signature sound. Social Distortion is a blend of potent power that appeals to all ages. They are honored to have been able to reach as many people as they have so far. "I write songs for myself, and I hope that other people will like them too," Ness says. "I think every record you make is showing people what you've learned over the past few years. It's showing people, 'This is what I know.' "
Now in their fourth decade, Ness and Social Distortion have officially achieved one of the most non-punk things possible: They've failed to burn out.
Entitled Single Mothers, the album is comprised of ten tracks that showcase exactly why Justin Townes Earle is considered a forefather of Contemporary Americana. As a recently married, sober man JTE writes from a point of maturity and content we’ve not seen before on past records. “One day I just realized it’s not cool to die young, and it’s even less cool to die after 30,” Justin states as he reflects on a life past and his newly found clarity. What he’s created is an album that’s raw, honest and personal in a way he hasn’t touched upon since his debut EP, Yuma.
Co-produced along side longtime engineer Adam Bednarik, Single Mothers shines in a world of pop-culture driven Ameri- cana records. “I don’t really know what Americana means anymore,” Justin laughs. “That’s not a slant on Americana, it’s just become a very unclassifiable genre. It’s gone seemingly pop. There are good parts to that, but it’s getting to a point where it won’t be able to redeem itself if it doesn’t slow down. Just like everything that gets popular.” With his heart and soul still rooted in Nashville, Single Mothers shows Justin’s continued combination of catchy songs and authenticity.
The album was recorded live with his four-piece touring band with only days of rehearsal leading up to recording to keep the ideas fresh. No overdubs, no other singers, no additional players – just a real, heartfelt performance capturing the moment. In fact, his songs “Picture in a Drawer’ and ‘It’s Cold in This House’ are only Justin, his guitar and his pedal steel player Paul Niehaus.
Earle’s new perspective is clear on Single Mothers as it opens with the track ‘Worried Bout The Weather,’ where we see the intimate, sensitive side of JTE. Here Justin rehashes feelings of trouble on the horizon singing “it don’t take a twister to wreck a home, don’t take a night to feel like you’re in the dark and all alone” – a theme that has surfaced before in his lyrics, but this time with a personal honesty and openness. Justin’s mood switches gears on the upbeat track ‘My Baby Drives.’ “My baby drives me to church on Sundays, take me to see my Momma on every
other Monday. Some might say I’m the luckiest man alive,” Justin croons light heartedly. On the title track ‘Single Mothers’ we hear feelings of resentment as JTE growls, “absent father, never offer even a dollar, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that he’s forfeited his rights to his own. Absent father is long gone.”
“As I’ve gotten older my anger comes from a very different place. It’s more rational and mature. I guess that comes along with clarity,” JTE reflects. Single Mothers finds Justin dealing with past struggles and anger with more ease than ever before. Creating a nostalgic feeling with the return to his signature sound, JTE takes listeners on a journey through some of his most personal stories yet on what can only be described as an authentic country record.
With the album finished and ready to be released into the world, it’s now easier for Carol to take a step back and be philosophical but there were moments when it almost seemed like Supergiant would never come to light.
The first iteration of Valley Queen formed not long after Carol moved to L.A. and crossed paths with Neil Wogensen through the local music scene. With Shawn Morones and drummer Gerry Doot later joining the lineup, the band named themselves Valley Queen in a nod to the region where ancient Egyptians buried their deceased matriarchs. They released the singles “In My Place” and “High Expectations,” as well as 2017 EP Destroyer to widespread critical acclaim. The band also supported artists including Laura Marling and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down on tour. Musically and creatively, they were in a place they never dreamed of.
As the band’s profile grew, so did days on the road and time spent away from home. Any touring band will testify to the intensity of togetherness, tight finances, being away from significant others, physical exhaustion, unhealthy diets and habits, etc., but they were doing what they loved and it was resonating with people. The band had found their own magical pocket musically but, ultimately, the strain was too much for Morones and Doot who left the band after years on the road. They were replaced with session musicians and the band continued to win fans and play bigger rooms, but the chemistry that Carol had come to depend on was gone.
The growing success earned them a record deal—a dream finally coming to fruition—but Carol was unable to find the creative cohesiveness she knew she needed to make the record. “I wondered how to record the record. I believed in myself but I had also believed in the people around me. I write these songs in solitude but Valley Queen is not my solo project. I thrived in the collaboration. I came back from these new tours feeling creatively depleted, like something important was missing.”
Carol knew ultimately what needed to happen. Like a parent knowing what’s best for their child, she understood that Valley Queen was more than lyrics and sessions musicians. It was about people, chemistry and the relationships that created such a powerful musical force to begin with.
“I knew nobody else could record this record with me but our original line up. They had grown into the arrangements, had a personal understanding of what the songs were about.” Doot couldn't rejoin—the strain touring had put on his newborn baby and wife was too much for him to reconsider—and Mike DeLuccia came forward, which was a godsend. Then Carol called Morones. The time on the road had strained their relationship significantly and there was healing that needed to happen. After long discussions and sharing, they all decided it would be worth the risk to try to create this album and tell the story of what had happened. Two months later, Valley Queen was in the studio.
Carol reflects, “Recording the album was a transformative experience for the band. It certainly trod the ground of the past, the difficulty and disappointment we had faced. But moving through and completing the project brought with it a sensation that the chapter was over. All of us will always be in process, we will always be learning how to better work with each other and ourselves. But a power was created in actively choosing to meet with that process.”
The result is Supergiant, produced by Lewis Pesacov (Best Coast, Fool’s Gold, Nikki Lane, FIDLAR). Not surprisingly, the album emerges with raw production and relentless intensity. It’s a record that could not have been made any other way, each member bringing their own creative force and energy to every song. It’s about self-exploration, not just as an individual, but also as a collective whole.
“It can be really painful and isolating to go through something that doesn’t really look like anybody else’s experience but your own,” Carol says in reflecting on Supergiant’s intensity. “But ultimately that’s part of the beautiful orchestration of being alive—instead of trying to go around that experience, you need to go fully into it. I think that’s the only way to get a deeper understanding of who we really are.”
215 N. Lumpkin St
Athens, GA, 30601