The Kernal

Based out of Jackson, Tennessee (a small town in between Memphis and Nashville), The Kernal is a singer- songwriter who, as he calls it, plays "Imaginary Country Music." Listening to his debut album, Farewellhello (which comes to you hand-delivered by your postman as a digital download code packaged inside a beer bottle), this is an apt description. Farewellhello has a wonderfully worn-in feel to it; like it was custom built for long drives.

With its Johnny Cash-style rhythm section, the playfully plucky opener "Where We're Standing" is a great introduction to the record, welcoming the listener in with its beautiful simplicity. But don't let that simplicity fool you, there's a confidence here that allows room for each song to breathe, giving way to subtle surprises in each song and at time a real sense of humor. While rooted in the nostalgia of yesterday's country sound, it also feels incredibly modern.

This complexity builds an intriguing tension within each song, which never feels forced. Each subtle movement feels natural, progressing the sound of the album from track to track.

Moody and stark, "Homicide" is a slow build with a haunting melody stretched over a bouncy rhythm giving the song a steady undercurrent, ultimately speaking to the deadly nature of communication: "I know that you know / there's ahomicide / every time you speak to me." "Push Your Button" clicks along like a ringing bell and lyrically shows that The Kernal can weave a narrative through his songs like a Southern-fried Springsteen. The quiet "Lay a New Rag Upon My Head" follows each aching howl with an echo, like you can hear the room it was recorded in. But its on "Good-Bye Flowers" and "Mind Control" that The Kernal seems to be having the most fun. Darkly comical and elevating, even if you're not one for the dancehall, these tracks will certainly get your foot tapping. The final track "Bull-Dozin' Dream" reminds the listener that "rambling's never free." It's the perfect send-off for a record that plays out like road music to somewhere and nowhere all at once. Wherever you decide to ramble, Farewellhello would make a good companion.

HalleyAnna Finlay simply sings like her songs were stamped on her heart at birth. Evidence: The Country. HalleyAnna's superb debut collection swaggers ("So Heavy") and sways ("Fast Train") with effortless elegance. The album, which deftly spotlights her meeting point between Patsy Cline and Emmylou Harris, serves as a shining introduction to a skyward bound emerging talent. High watermarks – particularly, "Back in Your Arms Again" and "Peace Is Lonely, Love Is War"– already show HalleyAnna growing exponentially sharp as a songwriter.

"Experience is what happens when you don't get what you want, so songwriting makes me feel better," she says. "Any time I'd go through a heartache growing up, my dad would say, 'Well, you'll get a good song out of it.' Sure enough, I really did. You can't write every single song about how somebody broke your heart, so some of the stuff I've done is more serious. 'Back in Your Arms Again' may sound like a song about somebody who dumped you, but it has a much deeper, eternal, death-related theme about meeting in the next life."

For the last decade, HalleyAnna has honed her songwriting skills at Cheatham Street Warehouse, the legendary Central Texas listening room owned by her father, singer-songwriter Kent Finlay. She now leads the next generation of compelling writers who follow James McMurtry, Todd Snider, Bruce Robison and others who started out at Cheatham Street. "I grew up listening to people who play music in Texas," says the youthful singer-songwriter. "I really love the traditional stuff that's going on in East Nashville like Elizabeth Cook and Caitlin Rose and Hayes Carll and Slaid Cleaves here in Austin. They embody the same traditional country that I like."

All personify the literate storytelling so identified with the Texas music tradition and HalleyAnna has put her creative writing studies to good use following their footsteps. Look for further proof one her sophomore effort (due in early 2013). Americana all-star Bill Chambers (Kasey's father) produced the collection. "Working with Bill is so easy and great," HalleyAnna says. "Bill came up and was here for the summer touring with Kasey and he had about a week window to make a record with me. He brought this really nice microphone that Kasey used on 'The Captain' and 'Barricades and Brickwalls' and we did vocals pretty much live. We cut the album in five days in the Wood Shed in San Marcos."

Brian T. Atkinson, author of I'll Be Here in the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt
Photo by Bill Sallans

Jeremy Davis of Elonzo

Jeremy Davis is the frontman and songwriter for Charlotte's Elonzo. With an emphasis on songs and the ties that bind us together, Elonzo is an americana force, yet to be reckoned. Elonzo is an independent rock band based out of Rock Hill, South Carolina area. In the heart of the Carolina Piedmont, they write songs about everyday life: sitting around on the front porch, watching the train go by, loss of loved ones, childhood, their hometown and their dreams. Elonzo's music represents some of the most classic elements of the Southeastern United States: earnestness, good story-telling, and an awareness of tragedy that never seems too far around the corner. The band's sound can transform from stripped alt-country to a richer, more expansive vision that reflects the meaningfulness of the ties that bind us together. Mostly, it sounds like rock and roll.

$8.00 - $10.00

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The Kernal with HalleyAnna, Jeremy Davis of Elonzo

Saturday, June 1 · Doors 10:00 PM / Show 10:30 PM at The Evening Muse