A PILGRIMAGE, AN UNDERGROUND TREE HOUSE AND AN ACT OF GOD!
The Bluefields: an American rock band from Nashville, Tennessee. Their rock and roll story might be as pure and simple as the prior statement if it weren’t for the fact that the combined band members’ resumes boast platinum record success, a Grammy nomination, an Americana Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award and song authorships that have become iconic, rock and roll standards, making this band far from simple. Comprised of rock veterans, Warner E. Hodges on lead guitar and vocals (Jason and the Scorchers), Dan Baird on bass, guitars and vocals (Georgia Satellites), Brad Pemberton on drums (Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Iodine) and Joe Blanton on lead vocals and guitar (Royal Court of China), these southern bred rockers remind you why you love rock and roll in the first damn place!
With the successful debut album Pure firmly under their belt, 2013 finds The Bluefields staring down the barrel of a European tour, returning to the studio to write and record their follow up record Ramshackle, and welcoming their newest band member, veteran rock drummer, Brad Pemberton. Ramshackle is set for release in conjunction with their European tour launch, March 19, 2013.
In order for The Bluefields to be born, certain stars had to align. For starters, Joe had to move back to his native Nashville and reconnect with his buddy, Warner, whom he had not seen or spoken with in well over a decade (as teenagers, Joe and Warner had become friends during Nashville’s fledgling punk scene). Once reunited, Warner would need to introduce Dan to Joe (Dan and Warner were on hiatus from touring abroad in Dan Baird and Homemade Sin) and, let’s face it, the three would need to “click.” Fueled by an almost instant camaraderie, this newfound band of brothers went to work in Joe’s basement studio that they dubbed the “underground tree house” and in the winter of 2011, unwittingly began writing what would become their debut album Pure.
“First, I had to get over the fact that two of my favorite musicians were sitting on my couch,” says Blanton. “These were my contemporary rock heroes that were nonchalantly strappin’ on guitars in my basement. We wrote everyday that first week. Ideas flowed freely and we attacked them like rabid dogs. I remember thinking that the second song we worked on (Flat Out Gone) came out so fast and powerful that if it were a car, it would be a black ’67 Shelby GT Fastback! I literally had dreams of songs inspired by something Warner or Dan had inadvertently said the night before. The next day we would take those ideas and burn through them in the studio. We were on fire.”
“A typical day (or night) in the Underground Tree House might go something like this,” says Baird. “I might come in with a Neil Young-ish chord structure that I’d been saving for years. Having no idea where the music and lyrics would end up, the three of us would simply start talking about our lives. The lyrical direction for Lay It on the Line began when Warner blurted out, “God cut me a break” based on something he was recalling from his past. As a matter of fact, that song has The Bluefields blueprint all over it…Starting in one direction, taking a sharp left turn, then jerking as hard as possible to the right, only to return to center without losing an ounce of emotional continuity.”
Expressive freedom permeates The Bluefields’ sensational albums Pure and Ramshackle, recorded in Nashville, at the Underground Tree House. Hodges recalls, “I was almost defiant in my desire for the band to push the envelope stylistically and not come off sounding like ‘Joe and the Scorchallites.’ As we started writing Pure, Dan introduced me to the secrets of JPOT (Jimmy Page Outdoor Tone) which really got the creative juices flowing. We began exploring a lot of different tunings and twelve strings and songs like Repair My Soul and Bad Woman Blues just seemed to come naturally from this process.” When asked about how their process has evolved from Pure to the writing and recording of Ramshackle, Blanton added, “The writing process was amazingly fast and natural and since we know each other so well, we’re completing each other’s sentences. We all had great ideas and with the addition of Brad, were able to work them up as a band. We also know more about what The Bluefields mean to us as a band and creative forum. We kept our anything “good” goes approach and Ramshackle is a prime example of this spirit. When Warner brought in a ukulele, Dan and I didn’t bat an eye. In fact, I believe we had the same “evil grin” response. Ramshackle is righteous rock and roll fun…period!”
Blanton delivers the majority of the lead vocals on Pure and Ramshackle. He brings an unabashed fearlessness to the projects as his voice instinctually navigates between “straight up, in your face” rock to swampy blues deliveries to punk rock primal screams…all with an unapologetic southern accent. Dan Baird’s vocals are just what you hope they’ll be…Dan Baird vocals! Time has served to make this distinctive rock voice better, grittier, “rawer” and well…even more timeless. And when he and Joe switch up and Dan takes the lead on Belong and Lay It On the Line (from Pure), it “hits the spot” and instantly renews your faith in the rock ballad.
Add to this concoction, the trailblazing guitar work of Warner E. Hodges and you better hide the matches! Hodges’ signature gunslinger style of playing can go from the genre bending American roots rock that he and the Scorchers are credited with inventing, to monster riffs raging like a Tasmanian devil teetering on the edge of chaos…and all in the same song! Drummer, Brad Pemberton, with nearly a decade in the Cardinal’s and over 50 albums recorded to his credit, is just what the doctor ordered! No matter what musical back road The Bluefields travel, he drives the groove home with power, grease and precision.
Studio and writing chops aside, these boys know how to bring it when the lights go down. Each known for their electrifying presence on stage, one can only describe the combination as a force of nature. Fans (or “Bluefielders” as they call themselves) have been heard commenting that attending a Bluefields show is like watching a rock and roll clinic…being “schooled” in all things rock; from songwriting and live execution, talent and showmanship, to bone rattling, mind jarring, head banging rock intangibles.
In many ways, the story of The Bluefields is like that of a perfect storm…“an act of God,” if you will. In an unpredictable world, it seems somehow perfectly logical that these guys should meet, that they should form a band, convene in an underground tree house, create stellar music and inevitably turn out a brand of rock and roll that could not have been prevented by the exercise of foresight and caution and for which no one can be held responsible.
Sabrina Shelfer Blanton