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Wednesday, 10 August 2016 15:21

You can go your own way

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From the ashes comes the rebirth. 

In all my travels as a journalist, and as a music lover, one of the hardest things to witness is when a band you deeply enjoy decides to part ways. Case-in-point, about two or so years ago, Owner of the Sun, an Atlanta-based Americana/rock act, blew into Western North Carolina.

Beyond the mere fact the freewheelin’ musicians were ambitious and chomping at the bit to try their luck “outside the perimeter,” one of their singers, Brad Boulet, was a Sylva native. And alongside Boulet was singer Mekenzie Jackson, whose powerful vocal bravado, like clockwork, would turn every head in the crowd, where the words “Who in the hell is that?” were muttered under the breath of all within earshot. 

I truly dug their sound, and their attitude, where it seamlessly intersected mountain folk and hard-driving contemporary. But, as in all our lives, things change. Each of the members, though proud of what the band accomplished, were each searching in different directions for the next step. Some dropped out of the scene to pursue business opportunities, while others went back to their daily lives, though still picking up their instruments from time-to-time. 

And what remained were Boulet and Jackson. He wanted to settle back down in the quiet mountains of his native Western North Carolina, while she still wanted to someday see her name up there in the bright lights of a marquee — somewhere, anywhere.

They went their separates ways, and I wondered just what fate had in store for them. Right away, Boulet got back into the rhythm of his rural homeland, eventually pickin’ and grinnin’ with friends on the weekends. Those simple porch sessions evolved into Ol’ Dirty Bathtub, a collage of bluegrass and folk musicians from far and wide in Jackson and Haywood counties. 

Jackson? A lifelong aficionado of all things Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac, she took her passion and, well, started a tribute band to the legendary rock group — aptly named Rumours. And in just the matter of a year, the Atlanta ensemble has spilled out of the metro-scene, crisscrossing the Southeast, where a frenzied audience greets them nightly as they sellout large-scale theaters and showrooms — their name sitting proudly on the marquee, under those bright lights only before seen in dreams.



Smoky Mountain News: Rumours seems to be taking on a life of its own lately. Where’s the band these days, creatively and musically?

Mekenzie Jackson (singer/tambourine): We’ve taken on the task of diving deeper into these [Fleetwood Mac] albums and finding songs that aren’t as popular and learning them, only to find that people in the audience get really excited when they hear that one song they never thought we would do live. 

Alex Thrift (lead guitar): We’ve even started researching and buying vintage equipment to match the sounds they got in studio in the 1970s. It has been really interesting because we’re able to finely tune certain nuances, dynamics and vocal harmonies.

SMN: What are you discovering about the songs you’ve covering that you might not have noticed before when hearing them played either live by other bands or on the records by their original composers?

MJ: It’s theatrical, really. We’re putting on a show for each and every audience. And every show is different. We try to incorporate the crowd in different ways because no crowd is the same and no room is the same.

AT: Fleetwood Mac’s real magic was in the studio, particularly Lindsey Buckingham’s production on all the records. It’s damn near half of their sound. With that said, to capture that live requires a lot of studying of tones, effects — everything from loosened drum heads to capture Mick Fleetwood’s thuddy tone he got from his kit. This is what differentiates cover bands from tribute bands, because, quite honestly, it’s the art that makes it more fun to begin with. 

Want to go?

Renowned Fleetwood Mac tribute act Rumours will be performing at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, at The Orange Peel in Asheville. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 day-of-show. The show is ages 18 and over. www.theorangepeel.net.


art ODBOl’ Dirty Bathtub 

Smoky Mountain News: What about this band is a personal result of what you’ve been searching for, in a group and in a daily balance of music and life?

Brad Boulet (mandolin/vocals): I’ve wanted to be in a string band for several years, really for as long as I’ve had an opportunity to play gigs. Ol’ Dirty Bathtub is now people who want to stay true to the form I love most — strings and vocals. All of us have jobs and other responsibilities outside of ODB. We try to get together and work on tunes at least once a week, and we try to make it social as well as rehearsal. It’s pretty common for us to get together on a Friday or Saturday evening, have a barbecue and make music.

Jerad Davis (singer/guitar): This whole thing started as a weekly porch jam. We would get together, cook some grub, maybe have a carbonated adult beverage, and play some songs. We weren’t doing it for notoriety or to impress anyone — we were playing for us. But we figured, since we’re going to be doing this anyway, we might as well book some shows locally. 

SMN: You’ve spent a lot of your life, and in many ways still do, performing live and also just jamming on a porch somewhere. What do you see looking back on your original musical pursuits, and how it applies to what you’re doing now in your life, either music related or not?

BB: I grew up in Jackson County and can remember my dad taking me to listen to Harry Cagle play the fiddle on his porch with other local players when I was just a little dude. When we worked outside, there was music on or we were singing. Family, friends, music, mountains and fishing are the things that most directly impacted my personal decision to move back to Western North Carolina after 16 years in Atlanta. Music, however, is like the thread that holds all those things together for me. I can hear Doc Watson anywhere I am and feel a little more at home, but I can hear him here and it’s like it all makes sense together.  

JD: Music has always been a big part of my life. And not to sound selfish, but the main reason I play music is for me. It makes me happy and I enjoy it. My ultimate goal in playing music live is to see the listeners enjoying themselves as much as we are enjoying our music. If that’s the case, we are all having a wonderful time.

Want to go?

Bluegrass/folk group Ol’ Dirty Bathtub will be performing during Concerts on the Creek at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, at Bridge Park in Sylva. The show is free and open to all ages. www.mountainlovers.com

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