This Saturday, Newport's Southgate House hosts a CD release party that defines "bittersweet." The release in question is Bad Apples, the first from rootsy rockers The Thirteens. It's also the last CD from the band. As the group was completing the album, frontman/singer/songwriter/guitarist/harmonica player Sam Nation was killed in a car accident.
Saturday's show, obviously, won't feature a performance by The Thirteens, but the other groups on the bill will celebrate the band and Nation's life and spirit. Each are set to perform songs from the new album, while some 'teens will also be sitting in with the groups throughout the night. The lineup features The Kentucky Struts, Staggering Statistics, The Hiders (see interview, page 35), Pearlene and Wussy. Thirteens co-singer Missy Teen (aka Melissa Fairmount) says her new band, My Wife the Tiger, will also make an appearance, playing an acoustic version of the Bad Apples track, "The Jumper." Music starts at 9 p.m. and the first 100 people through the door receive a limited edition CD, A Saddlebag of Songs, featuring some of Nation's acoustic recordings.
Bad Apples showcases The Thirteens' deft ability to balance on the thin tightrope between vintage Country and Rock & Roll, with vibrant performances and ear-grabbing, rousing and sometimes heartrending songwriting.
Drummer Kendall Davis (formerly of Ditchweed), guitarist P.G. Lewis and bassist Mike Gregory provide a spirited, flawless base, while Nation and Teen volley vocals and harmonize with a loving telepathy. Nation's voice is impressively versatile, entertainingly shifting from a Rockabilly hiccup ("Send Me Back My Stuff") to a gutter-creepin' growl ("Good Boy") to a natural, soulful pine ("The Jumper"). Teen's airier voice makes for an intriguing dichotomy; her harmonies (as well as the creative counter melodies) take the album to another level.
The captivating songwriting ices the cake, as Nation's poetic lyrics show an artistic old-soul worldliness, weariness and sensitivity. On the rumbling "Good Boy," Nation sings like a scoundrel, but the lyrics are all about being faithful while the cat's away ("I know she'll make it worth it when she gets back home"), while "Scenester Waltz" offers wise hindsight for big-fish/small-pond hipsters ("Hey, I played that game, too, even better than you/But you'll never know just what I mean").
The album pulls in for a landing with two amazing tracks. The rollicking "Bad Sickness" sounds like an old Country/Gospel standard; it's certainly good enough to be a new one. With the hands-to-the-sky melody, Davis' brushed shuffle and Lewis' ace guitar riffing guiding the way, the song builds to a church-roof-raisin' climax. The final track is an absolute tear-jerker, as Nation and Teen offer up a sublime acoustic take of the Louvin Brothers' "When I Stop Dreaming." It's a moving finale, as Nation gorgeously sings of a love that won't die until he does. Even if you never knew Sam Nation, the song will break your heart. (thethirteens.com)
More Local Notes
· Locals The Sundresses return from a successful two -week East Coast tour to play the Northside Tavern this Friday. The free show teams the 'dresses with Jake Speed and the Freddies. The Sundresses' Brad Schnittger was once a "Freddie" and will again sit it with the band Friday. The Sundresses other singer/guitarist/drummer Jeremy Springer says Speed will return the favor and sit in with his band on a few songs as well. The Sundresses recently found out they will be performing this September at a large Indie music fest in South Park, Col., alongside acts like The Queers, The Paybacks and Margot and the Nuclear So and So's. (thesundresses.com)
· Blues/Rock faves The Sonny Moorman Group are recording and filming their show this Saturday at the Silverton club, Play By Play. The band is planning to release the recordings on a two-disc CD/DVD package on Atlas Records. The group performs at 10 p.m. (sonnymoorman.com)
· High-energy rockers MOTH are still working the tour circuit in support of their fantastic Immune To Gravity CD. Saturday, they'll be representing Cincinnati at The Foundry (26 Wyandot St.) in Dayton as part of a large festival-like show spotlighting the Indie Rock scene in the Gem City. Former Guided By Voices guitarist Mitch Mitchell is on the bill (with his Mitch Mitchell's Terrifying Experience), as well as Captain of Industry, Detholz!, Awesome Cool Dudes, Flyaway Minion, Mouth of the Architect, Human Reunion, The Sailing and others. The all-ages show kicks off at 4 p.m.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com