Music » Music Features

Roots on and off the Road



Do you know where your favorite local roots artist is? This month, most of them are on the road. While The North Mississippi Allstars are working the East Coast, Lucero has been criss-crossing the continent, with a Memphis stop slated for Friday, November 25th, at The Complex.

In early November, Nancy Apple and fellow Ringo Records act Rob McNurlin collaborated on a 12-song CD called River, Road or Rail. Now, they're in the midst of a three-week tour, which has taken them to Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California, as well as the legendary Threadgills club in Austin, Texas. In between, the duo has played house-party dates, opening slots for Dale Watson, and performed live on San Antonio's radio station KSYM FM-90.1.

Midtown singer-songwriter Drew Holcomb has been hitting colleges from coast to coast as part of W2 Entertainment's Acoustic Music Series tour. He estimates that he's sold 1,500 copies of his debut CD, Washed in Blue, to enthusiastic college kids.

"Sixty percent of my shows are on-campus gigs, anything from a noon show in a cafeteria to a nighttime concert in an auditorium," says Holcomb, who's been working with W2 since mid-2004. "It can be hit-or-miss, but it is getting me on the road, getting me crowds in random places around the country."

In addition to campus gigs, Holcomb has been opening club shows for acts such as Susan Tedeschi and Los Lobos. Holcomb will return to Memphis to play the Hi-Tone Café on Thursday, December 22nd.

Last January, Collierville duo Jed and Kelley quit their day jobs, sold their cars, and piled into an RV to play eight months of gigs out west. They returned to the Memphis area in mid-October.

"If anything's gonna happen, you have to make it happen," says Kelley. "We just couldn't sit around Memphis playing the same bars all the time. We wanted to get out there and see what other cities had to offer."

Kelley booked 90 shows from February to October; Jed gassed up the RV; they loaded their instruments and their dog, Josey; and they hit the road.

They parked their RV for weeks at a time, basing operations out of states like New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. "One night, we'd be playing at an Elks lodge; the next, we'd be in a coffee shop or a rock club," says Kelley. "The whole plan was to do it for nine months. It was hard work, and we ate a lot of ramen noodles. The gigs were wonderful and the scenery was beautiful, but the best part was making new musical friends."

Kelley says she and Jed benefited from their Memphis connection. "Saying we're from here automatically got us a level of respect. People took us a little more seriously."

Back home, the duo will play Stop 345 Saturday, December 3rd.

Meanwhile, The Hometown Nobodies have no gigs on the calendar. This Memphis duo, the brainchild of Justin Burks and Aaron Brame, prefer to create music and launch songs via their Web site,, instead of taking their act on the road.

"We were sick to death of touring and getting meager responses," says Brame, who's collaborated with Burks since 1995 in such groups as The F-Holes, The Living Room, and, most recently, Halfacre Gunroom.

"The traditional aspects of being in a band were getting us nowhere," Burks says. "Shows were fleeting moments -- even if it felt great, it was still unsatisfying. We don't want shows. We don't want a record deal. We just want to make music."

Over the last eight months, the Hometown Nobodies have penned and recorded more than 30 tracks, which they post online every Monday.

"The deadlines are the secret," Brame says. "We take them very seriously. People are asking us, 'Are you sure you're not gonna play out?' But learning that we don't have to elicit a response with a live show is a lot more rewarding. People who find us online are listening with more sincerity."

While the Hometown Nobodies will have a track on the next Makeshift Records compilation, due out in February, the band currently has no plans to release an album. Instead, they'll continue to write and release songs online -- at least until they release the 52-week mark, which was their original goal.

"We shaved away everything that wasn't fun about playing music," Burks says.

Add a comment