Marching to Their Own Beats

St. Paul and the Broken BonesA blend of local and nonlocal sounds.

by John D


So, by the time you read this, St Paul and the Broken Bones will finally have released their debut album, Half The City. You should buy it. As in right now. It is a really, really good album. I’m not just saying that because the band is from Birmingham, but that doesn’t hurt. Birmingham does have a large amount of native talent, and when one band makes it big, it can only help everyone else. Enough about that, let’s discuss the album. It has solid production and great pacing and shows off all of the band’s strengths (I am partial to the horn section, and considering the horn section just graduated from college, I would say they are quite talented.) The album, released by Single Lock Records (from Alabama, by the way) and produced by Ben Tanner of The Alabama Shakes, is just fun. It has some barn burners, and it has some slow burners, but you won’t skip a single track. Trust me. Listen for the first time, and  you will think Al Green and Bobby Bland had a love child. I even more strongly “suggest” that you catch them live. Although they’re a young band, it is almost impossible not to have a good time. Alright, let’s talk about the nonlocal folks visiting Birmingham in March.

WorkPlay has just announced reggae rap artist Matisyahu will be playing a very intimate show on March 11 (in the smaller, more welcoming theater). Matisyahu is in town for several days, rehearsing new songs from a new album, Akeda, due out sometime in late spring, and has decided to play the new music for an audience for the first time in Birmingham. Tickets might be sold out by now, but you should double check.

On March 18, WorkPlay has booked a double-billed ticket of Diane Birch and Andrew Belle. Birch is an accomplished pianist who impressed the Purple One (Prince) so much he invited her to come to his house and jam. Andrew Belle is a young singer/songwriter who has split his time between Chicago and Nashville. His most recent release, Black Bear, has shown that he is an artist who has continued to grow (the single “Pieces” is edgy and haunting, yet incredibly catchy.)

Iron City has a pretty grand March scheduled. For all of you out there who really get into St Patrick’s Day, make sure to get tickets for the Dropkick Murphys/Lucero/ Skinny Lister show. The Murphys are a band that you have to see live to truly get. Lucero, one of my personal favorites, is a band that has been part of the alt country/southern rock movement since the early 2000s. Blue collar and fun, Lucero’s gravel-voiced frontman Ben Nichols is the Tom Waits of our generation. Ever popular in Birmingham, The Indigo Girls will be stopping by on March 18, followed by The Del McCoury Band on the 21st. If you’re a fan of Bluegrass, then you have to make this show. Del is up there with Ralph Stanley when it comes to popularizing and growing the genre. McCoury, who has been doing it since the 50s, now makes it a family affair; he is backed by a band that contains several of his sons.

Robert Ellis (photo by David Ayer)

Robert Ellis (photo by David Ayer)

Birmingham’s smaller venue, Bottletree, has become the venue where you see someone and then tell people years later, “I remember when I saw them with 200 people….” Yeah, it’s great to say it, but even better to really remember small, intimate shows that were spectacular. On March 6, Houston native and Nashville-based Robert Ellis comes to town. His blend of Texas folk and country is about storytelling and emotion, and his new album, The Lights From The Chemical Plant, is already making waves and some people’s “Best of” lists. Singer/songwriter Noah Gunderson is scheduled for the 18th, and although he tours under his name, his sister Abby tours with him and contributes on piano, several stringed instruments, and backing vocals. On the 31st, Bottletree welcomes Waxahatchee back to town and for Katie Crutchfield, the driving force of Waxahatchee, this is a homecoming. She grew up in Birmingham but now calls Philadelphia home.

In a somewhat out-of-the-norm move for The Nick (though that statement begs the questions: For a venue like The Nick, is there a norm?) singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins will be performing on March 20. The New Jersey-born artist has a powerful voice and just released her third album (Slow Phaser). One reason I would want to see her? Early in her career, while singing in a small club in New Jersey, she was heckled to sing some Springsteen. She obliged, but only to perform them poorly and antagonize the crowd…come to think of it, she should fit right in at The Nick!•


Upcoming events

•4.11 John Prine and Holly Williams at The Alys Stephens Center. John Prine, well, is John Prine. Williams, granddaughter of Hank Williams, has done a great job of making a name for herself while still being respectful of the Williams name.

•4.25 Angel Olsen at The Bottletree. Olsen’s voice (and live performances) are generating a lot of buzz. She offers earnest songwritng and a haunting voice.

•4.28 Vampire Weekend at Sloss Furnaces. A band that was created because the guys loved African rhythms, calypso, and rock. Several albums in, they continue to evolve, and fans expect no less.

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