Marcus King Band
The Steel Woods
Thu · October 12, 2017
Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm
$15.00 - $17.00
This event is 18 and overhttps://www.georgiatheatre.com/event/1534177/
Raised in Greenville, South Carolina, King was brought up on the blues, playing shows as a pre-teen sideman with his father—bluesman Marvin King, who himself was the son of a regionally-known guitarist—before striking out on his own. Going beyond the sonic textures of his acclaimed 2015 debut album, Soul Insight; The Marcus King Band broadens his sound, touching upon everything from funky R&B to Southern soul and Americana in the process. His band gets in on the action too, stacking the songs with blasts of swampy brass, a lock-step rhythm section and swirling organ. Ever the multi-tasker, King bounces between several instruments, handling electric and acoustic guitar — as well as pedal and lap steel — while driving each track home with his soulful, incendiary voice.
Having spent the past year tirelessly playing ever-larger venues and festivals to a burgeoning fan base, The Marcus King Band was written on the road and recorded during a series of live takes at Carriage House Studios in Stamford, CT. The album captures the energy of the band's blazing live show, as well as the talent of a rising young songwriter reaching well beyond his years.
"The majority of our songs are specific to situations I've lived," King explains. "I write as a form of therapy, to release my emotions into a musical expression. I want people to know they're not the only ones going through that pain. Music is the true healer. And when we perform, we want the audience to leave feeling as tired and as emotionally freed as we do. It's all about getting the stress of the day off your chest. It's like therapy."
The Marcus King Band features Jack Ryan on drums and percussion, Stephen Campbell on bass, Matt Jennings on keys and organ, Dean Mitchell on saxophone, and Justin Johnson on trumpet, trombone and backing vocals. Joining the band on the new album are a number of mentors and collaborators, including Derek Trucks (who plays guitar on "Self-Hatred").
No guest plays a bigger role than Warren Haynes, though. A longtime champion of King's songwriting and guitar prowess, Haynes produced every track on The Marcus King Band (and contributed his trademark slide guitar on "Virginia"), expertly capturing the group's live sound for a cohesive collection reflecting the band's expansive explorations.
"Marcus is the first player I’ve heard since Derek Trucks to play with the maturity of a musician well beyond his age," Haynes says. "He’s very much influenced by the blues, but also by jazz, rock, soul music, and any timeless genres of music. You can hear the influences, but it all comes through him in his own unique way. He has one of those voices that instantly draws you in, and his guitar playing is an extension of his voice and vice versa.”
A childhood introvert who leaned heavily on music as a way of expressing himself, King fills The Marcus King Band with a mix of biographical tunes and fictional story songs. "At the time I wrote 'Self-Hatred,' says King, "the girl I was seeing really hurt me. Broke my heart, took all of my insecurities and used them against me…she told me she hated herself for what she had said and done to me. I told her I knew exactly how it feels to hate yourself. 'Self-Hatred' is within you and me."
"Devil's Land" is loosely based on his grandfather, who worked on a farm during his younger years, while the story behind the track "Rita Is Gone" was inspired by the television show Dexter. Meanwhile, songs like "Guitar In My Hands" peek into King's personal life — a life filled with highway mile markers, truck stops, and a nightly rotation of stages, all waiting to be filled with the sound of a genre-bending band on the rise.
"This album is a big melting pot of different kinds of music," says King. "It's the sound of everyone taking their own influences and collectively coming together as a group. We're all really hungry to play, and we're so passionate about this music. I want people to feel the same thing we feel — to leave the show feeling some sense of release. It's almost like the show ends, and everyone can take a deep breath together."
The Steel Woods trace an unbroken line from Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams through Willie and Waylon, then the Allmans, Blackfoot, The Band and Tom Petty up through contemporaries like Kings of Leon and the Avett Brothers.
“I grew up on Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Led Zeppelin,” says Jason “Rowdy” Cope, who was born in Asheville, NC, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he heard some pretty impressive pickers, which inspired him as a kid. “Our music is like good bluegrass, with the electric guitars turned up to 11,” he says.
There is a biblical, hellfire-and-brimstone morality at work on songs like the good-and-evil parable, “Axe”, the first song they ever wrote together — which takes off on co-founder Rowdy’s ominous, rumbling bluegrass guitar line — or the galloping country rhythms of “Della Jane’s Heart”, a murder ballad about a spurned woman taking her revenge on a fickle lover, and immediately regrets her actions. “The Secret” goes back to the Garden and Adam’s original heartbreak, equating the duplicitous Eve with the Devil himself. The musical melting pot ranges from the stark acoustic strumming of “Whatever It Means to You” and the thunderstruck drone of their speeded-up Black Sabbath cover, “Hole in the Sky”.
The band’s founders are two native sons of the south who both hail from small-town, Bible Belt backgrounds. The Alabama-born Bayliss played harmonica from the age of eight in his family’s gospel band, eventually teaching himself piano, bass and drums. Rowdy turned his love of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix into a career as a session guitarist/songwriter and producer, moving to Los Angeles then playing in Jamey Johnson’s band for nine years. The two met in Nashville during a one-off gig, and immediately felt a connection. “We decided we were pretty much on the same page and wanted to do our own thing,” says Wes. “We had an idea and a vision.”
The pair spent a month fishing together, eventually bringing guitars along with their poles to the tiny hole and discovered an affinity. It was then they began to make music together. “It just worked, his voice and me doing my thing on guitar,” says Rowdy.
The result was an EP, which, because they hadn’t written anything together except for “Axe”, included covers by hot Nashville writers like Rowdy’s frequent collaborator singer/songwriter Brent Cobb (“Better in the Fall,” “The Well,” “If We Never Go”, “Let the Rain Come Down”) and revered artist Darrell Scott (“Uncle Lloyd”).
With originals such as the acoustic ballad, “I’m Gonna Love You”, the narrative title track, the philosophical “Whatever It Means to You” and the cathartic closer, “Let the Rain Come Down”, the songwriting/production team of Bayliss and Cope is proving quite a formidable duo. The two, who co-produced their debut album, are committed to doing things their way.
“We’re not murderers, we’re just the messengers,” says Bayliss about some of the songs’ more gruesome scenarios. “We don’t preach. We just want to play good songs with good stories. As long as they come back to hear us again, I’m happy.”
“We’re into this to heal people’s hearts,” explains Rowdy. “If you’re given a talent that can shake plates in the earth, that can really change the world, you have a responsibility to use that for good. Music is the most powerful, emotion-driven art form in the universe because it transcends language. It’s like a sharp blade. It can be used to kill, or in the hands of a surgeon, to heal someone.”
The Steel Woods aren’t in this for the money, the fame or the awards. For them, music is a matter of life and death, right and wrong, bad and good, with the sinners punished for their transgressions, and the noble achieving the kind of transcendence the man dying of thirst in “Let the Rain Come Down” receives.
“Everything has its price,” says Rowdy. “You reap what you sow…We’ve poured so much into this band. I know how little sleep we’ve had, how many bad meals we’ve eaten. I just hope these songs can help people get things off their chest.”
“We want to get good songs out to a bunch of people who need them,” adds Wes. “We just want to make a living making music because it’s the greatest job in the world. I don’t mind working, but I prefer loving what I do.”
215 N. Lumpkin St
Athens, GA, 30601