Published on October 10th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Gaslight Street Brings New Voices to the ‘Triple Album Release’
Gaslight Street has been in the middle of the down-to-earth, unpretentious side of Charleston’s roots-rock/Americana scene for years, and frontman Campbell Brown has been at the helm the whole way. As the ensemble’s lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and occasional pianist, Brown has guided the band through various blues-rock, Southern soul, and countrified pop excursions with relative ease.
This week, alongside Guilt Ridden Troubadour and Ryan Bonner and his group — two fellow Charleston bands who share an appreciation for that twangy blend of rock, country, and Americana — Brown and his bandmates will hit the stage at the Charleston Music Hall for a “Triple Album Release” concert.
“We’ve done some sit-down theater shows before, but it will be pretty different from the typical Charleston shows,” Brown says of this weekend’s event.
Shortly after releasing a solid studio album titled Idle Speed in 2011, Brown began adjusting the Gaslight Street lineup, enlisting vocalist Noelle Pietras (she’s also Brown’s wife), keyboardist Whitt Algar, drummer Stratton Moore, bassist Ben Kinser, and most recently, lead guitarist Dan Wright. The solidified version of the band tracked their new 10-song studio collection, Heavy Wind, earlier this year with local studio engineers Jeff Leonard and Erick Rickert at Ocean Industries on James Island.
“It took longer than I’ve ever really taken on album production,” Brown says of the Ocean Industries sessions. “I usually like to get in and out. We had a lot more instrumental and harmony tracks this time around. We went in for the first session back in January. It was a three-day weekend, and we got all of the drums, bass, and basic rhythm tracks. We did a lot of Whitt’s organ work in February. They were very busy at Ocean in the late winter, so we didn’t wrap things up until April.”
Taking breaks between laying the basic tracks, vocal tracks, and mixing might have allowed the band and their production team some valuable down-time to evaluate and approach the overall sound of the album. There was no rush, and the end result never sounds hurried or thinned out. From the easy-rolling, Allman Brothers-esque title track to the swingin’ blues-pop of “Blue Skies for Fools” and the prom-ready Stax soul waltziness of “Doorstep,” the band plays strongly with a slightly different touch of soul than previous efforts.
“It’s a different lineup from previous albums, so there’s definitely a different sound,” Brown says of Heavy Wind. “Whitt’s been playing with us for three years, but he’s never been on an album until now. This album represents what we’ve been doing for the last two or three years very well.”
While he still delivers his lines with scruffy soul man swagger, Brown admits that he’s adjusted his singing style just a bit since the making of Idle Speed.
“I know what what I can do and what I can’t,” he says. “I think I’ve developed a better sense of melody. I go with what’s natural, with what’s based on a bluesy take of a chord progression I might write or whatever. That will always be present, but I’ve gained more country influences from playing with Dan, too, because his style involves some of the Nashville and Memphis guitar style.”
Wright is a longtime bandleader (with the New Beat) and a Lowcountry Blues Club veteran in his own right. His technical proficiency is tops, and his feel for playing blues, soul, rock, and country is genuine and deep.
“Dan has a very tasteful sense about him,” Brown boasts. “I’m lucky to play with him and the rest of the band for so long now. Ben’s a really great bass player, and Stratton has developed into a solid, great drummer. Stratton’s drums sound great on this new album. Eric Rickert actually put a towel on his snare on some of the songs to get that dead, punchy sound. They all let it fly really well on this album.”
While the rhythm section sounds rock-solid and the guitar licks and solos come off with terrific flair, the dual vocals and rich harmonies between Brown and Pietras stand out as the main new attraction.
“We started singing together like this about two years ago, not long after we started going out on the road behind Idle Speed,” Brown says. “I felt like there was room for a nice female voice. She had to learn to sing with me, which I know was difficult. She picked up on a lot of my nuances, which had to be a headache for her. It actually made me go for a little more control and consistency, actually.
“It added a new dimension and really rounded out the original song ideas,” he adds. “Cary Ann Hearst graciously sang on several songs on our first two albums. I always had that harmony sound in my head. Noelle has this rich, powerful, soul thing going on, so it’s great to have that in the music. It’s so great to have another voice to bounce things off of.”
As Gaslight Street and their colleagues prepare for the “Triple Album Release” concert this week, Brown admits that he and his team have a only a loose game plan in the works. Guilt Ridden Troubadour will open the show, followed by Gaslight Street, and Ryan Bonner and company. With a seated audience, Brown might actually treat the event like a formal Gaslight Street recital.
“I was thinking about trying to enforce a dress code for the band,” he laughs. “It might feel strange to go on that stage and look out at a seated crowd, just sitting down, looking at you, like, ‘Okay, what are you going to do for us?’ But I look forward to it. The Music Hall sounds incredible.”
Gaslight Street, Guilt Ridden Troubadour, and Ryan Bonner and his band will share the stage at the Charleston Music Hall on Sat. Oct. 12. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the music starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 (advance tickets) and $13 (day of show). The first 100 attendees will receive free copies of each band’s new album
“Blue Skies for Fools” by Gaslight Street:
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