Rosco Bandana

Rosco Bandana

The Mississippi septet Rosco Bandana are the product of teenage rebellion and its consequences; of lost love, false starts and, above all, lasting friendship. They're what happens when a group of kids take a chance on a long shot and – against all odds – it pays off. There's also a Blur cover thrown in for good measure.The group began – spiritually, if not specifically – when principle songwriter Jason Sanford, at that time acting in open and active defiance to his strict Christian upbringing, wandered into a tobacco store in a Gulfport mall to buy smokes and struck up a conversation with the kid working behind the counter. "He was like this real cool, hip, indie sorta character," Sanford explains, "and he ended up turning me on to people like Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Iron and Wine, Neutral Milk Hotel. That's kind of how it all started." His parents were wary of encouraging their son's budding interest. "They wanted to keep me in this tiny bubble," Sanford explains.

"At the time, I was into metal," Pribyl says. "So I went to this open mic night, and Jason was playing this honky-tonk stuff. I remember thinking, 'What the hell is this?'" But the best friendships are built on compromise and the more Pribyl and Sanford started playing together, the more a specific sound started to emerge – one that blended a ragged bar-rock attitude of bands like Uncle Tupelo with a few mild nods toward the iconoclastic end of contemporary country, like Jamey Johnson. Their core in place, Pribyl and Sanford soon began looking to expand their lineup. "Jason started an open mic night at a wine bar," Pribyl said. "From there, we'd invite 10 or 15 people to come with us out to this abandoned house and we'd just jam. We sort of hand-picked the band from there." In the kind of romantic twist all great rock stories require, one of them was Jason's old flame Emily Sholes. Another was Jennifer Flint, whose fiery vocals serve as a scorching counterbalance to Sanford's down-home croon. "I first met Jason in 2006," says Flint. "He was in one of his first bands, and I honestly just fell in love with the way he wrote." Local attention inspired the band to enroll in a Battle of the Bands contest sponsored by Hard Rock, which they handily won, and they soon flew out to Los Angeles to work on their debut with acclaimed producer Greg Collins (U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt) at The Nook Studio.

The results are spellbinding. They turn Blur's "Tender" into a rousing, gospel-informed hymn, and work similar magic on their own compositions: "Time to Begin," the first song Sanford, Pribyl and Flint wrote together, hip-swivels like something off Exile on Main Street; the trembling, minor-key vocal melody of "El Luna" recalls both Elliott Smith and Abbey Road-era Beatles and "Woe is Me" is a rollicking country stomp in the vein of Steve Earle. "I was trying to write a real Depression Era-style country song," Sanford explains, "and so I tried to put myself in the mindset of what people back then were going through." Though it began as an attempt to channel the loose rootsiness of Old Crow Medicine Show, the result is a barnburner – a big, raucous number with a booming backbeat and deep-fried electric guitar. Whether loud and rowdy or quiet and contemplative, Rosco Bandana balance both extremes perfectly. "It might sound cliché," Pribyl says, "but we're just these humble, good ol', down-to-earth Mississippi people. And when we play live, you can just see in our faces the joy of music."

Morning River Band

“For some good old time, country rock tunes, spend a few minutes listening to the Morning River Band.”
-Record Dept.

Sometimes the most innovative artists look to the past for inspiration. Such is the case with Philadelphia, PA's Morning River Band, who shine with traditional Americana on their third release, To Suzie. Recorded in 2012 by Steve Poponi and Matt Weber at Gradwell House, To Suzie will be released on May 21, 2013—digitally via Bandcamp, iTunes, and CDBaby, and on limited-edition colored vinyl.

Formed in 2009 by Jeffrey Fields and Philip Kunkle, the Morning River Band soon added Denny Barron on bass and later Arthur Herrmann on electric guitar and dobro, with frequent guest appearances by Morgan Caulfield on vocals. Of the band's second release, Between the Ocean and the Blues, Indie Music Reviewer wrote that “Morning River Band is a band that covers the genre gamut very well and should be on your iPod, especially if you are a fan of the great Loretta Lynn, Randy Travis [or] Tom Petty.” XPN2’s local-music blog, The Key, drew other comparisons after a live performance, “the vibe of the room hinted at the big touchstones – Willie Nelson, Gram Parsons, The Louvin Brothers – but in a reverential way, not something that attempted to falsely recast the style for city folk.”

Like those greats, Morning River Band offers strong songwriting, often showcasing the dark humor that trademarks folk music. “Hangover Blues” finds Caulfield singing, “I wonder if the savior ever drank too much of that wine / I'm sure he would if he were broke like me and cryin' all the time.” “Pills and Pabst Blue Ribbon, make my worries disappear / Jesus Christ! Let's sing it twice for everyone to hear!” goes one verse of “Drinking Blues, No. 4.”

To Suzie, described by Fields as “an ode to good riddance,” was inspired by encounters with George Jones and Jim Beam. The record's nine tracks (most of which clock in at around two minutes) spin the narrative with nods to booze, Jesus, and broken hearts along the way. The first track, “Suzie's Theme,” is a bluesy instrumental that highlights Herrmann's musical chops. Later, “Bury Me” is an a cappella track delivered powerfully by Fields.

“It’s tough being a country band in Philly,” Fields has asserted, but with the amount of talent that comprises To Suzie, things should get easier for this country band from the city.

$8.00 - $10.00


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