As fans of our show know so well, Nashville’s Belmont University has an impressive track record of fostering musical relationships, even ones made off campus.
And thus it was that Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey, “crashing” a Belmont neighborhood party, met one another and began a life together. The now-married couple has tried a variety of musical endeavors, together and apart, with shuffling people names and styles. But something settled when the idea of Buffalo Clover took root. With a nice buzz and a Kickstarter cruising into its final days, this exciting band visit the Loveless Barn this week, for an opening slot that will sound utterly perfect on Hippie Radio.
And after that, almost everything’s going to be coming up Clover, in that two of the three other bands set for Wednesday are friends and colleagues of the Buffalo gang. And I’ll tell you about them in a second. But there’s also a gentleman visiting from another planet altogether who merits more than a passing mention.
Dex Romweber is frankly one of the most daring and inspired booking ideas our Mayor Todd Mayo has ever had. Because Dex is from a side of roots that can elude people – the underground lineage of Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Feathers. That mid-sized club ecstasy of a slightly deranged electric guitar and a hard, hard backbeat, with singing that commands attention and awe, whatever you want to say about its style or intonation. The more Southern and humid, the better.
Dex is a king of that world. He rattled garages and clubs in Chapel Hill and Athens in the 80s, got culty famous in a smashing documentary about the latter’s fertile music scene. His great band was the Flat Duo Jets, a fearsome guitar/drum duo that showed just enough appreciation of pop to make the band freakishly appealing. To call them a Southern counterpart to The Ramones wouldn’t be crazy.
Now Dex plays and records with his sister Sara, a remarkable musician who translates appreciation for a wide range of drummers into a personal style. Her hard bossa nova beats, which Dex seems to return to frequently, are syncopated sensual and surfer superb. The duo performed last week at Scenic City Roots, whipping through eight or nine songs in an efficient 25-minute show. (Dex isn’t really a wordy guy on stage.) And it whet the appetite for this week’s set, even if for some, he’s an acquired taste.
The balance of the bill was in a sense curated by Buffalo Clover’s Margo Price and friends. She’s sung for example with East Nashville’s Little Bandit, a new band steeped in the darkest, drunkest saddest, meanest country music there ever was. She starred in their intense new music video “Platform Shoes” about the tragic demise of a prostitute. And she’s close to the biggest Little Bandit, songwriter Alex Caress.
“He sings dark murder ballads but has a phenomenal angelic voice,” she reports. “It’s old country at its best but it has a new feel because Alex is very innovative.”
For a taste, you can find Caress and Little Bandit singing with fantastic harmonies in the vein of a lonesome Gram Parsons on a recent Daytrotter session.
And we’re going to do something kind of awesome and close the show with an artist who has less than 30 likes on Facebook. Because as hard as it is to remember sometimes, this adventure we’re on is truly not about music biz metrics. Jim Skinner comes with references, none more enthusiastic than the folks in Buffalo Clover. Margo spearheaded a benefit to help this blind veteran artist fund an album. And you can expect to see elements of that band behind Skinner, who’s bringing horns and a threat of dance friendly set in what he calls his Wall To Wall Rhythm & Blues Band. Gracious!
Skinner is originally from Chicago. Spent a good bit of time in New Orleans, where he was a working musician. And elsewhere. Now he’s here, making his way in music like all the other creators on the East bank. Our booking oracle caught him throwing down at the Five Spot and bam, he’s on our bill. I can’t wait to meet and hear him.
“He’s got such a phenomenal voice and he’s led such an interesting life,” Margo says. Working together and writing together “has been good from both perspective. We definitely influence each other, despite being from very different backgrounds.”
As for Buffalo Clover, they’re pushing to the next level with a new all-in-the-can album that’s going to tap that thirst for vibes from The Band and Creedence. They collaborated with Alabama Shakes powerhouse Brittany Howard on a track. And in general, the record has a warm, oriental rugs and bell-bottoms kind of comfort, even when it rocks hard. And this being Nashville, the songs are strong. That’s a priority for Margo, who has an uncle with classic country cuts to his name. The group arrives in the final days of a Kickstarter campaign to cover the pressing and promotion costs of the album, so check that out here.
Buffalo Clover is actually a little flower that grew abundantly on rangeland back in the thundering buffalo days. And then it was thought to be extinct for a while, until a comeback was discovered. Hmm. Sounds like some of the music I love.