American Aquarium

The Grey Eagle and Worthwhile Sounds Present

American Aquarium

Curtis McMurtry, Kenny George Band

Thu, September 14, 2017

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

$15.00 - $18.00

This event is all ages

STANDING ROOM ONLY

American Aquarium
American Aquarium
For nearly a decade, American Aquarium have spent the majority of their days on the road, burning through a sprawl of highways during the day and playing hours of raw, rootsy rock & roll at night. Sometimes, the job is a grind. Most times, it's a blessing. American Aquarium's songs, filled with biographical lyrics about last calls, lost love and long horizons, have always explored both sides of that divide. For every drunken night at the bar, there's a hangover in the morning. For every new relationship, there's the chance of a broken heart. It's that kind of honesty — that sort of balance — that makes the band's newest album, Wolves, their strongest release to date.

And it nearly didn't happen. When American Aquarium traveled to Muscle Shoals to record Burn.Flicker.Die. in 2012, they were convinced the album would be their last. Even though they had enlisted the help of award-winning singer-songwriter Jason Isbell to produce the sessions, they were exhausted; weathered and whittled to the bone by more than a half-decade of heavy partying and heavier touring. To a small group of diehard fans, they were absolute rockstars… but being rockstars to a cult audience doesn't always put food on your table or gas in your tank. BJ Barham, the band's frontman, was so poor that he'd been living out of a storage unit for months, unable to afford an apartment in the band's hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Clearly, something had to give. Maybe it was time to make one final album — an album about failure, desperation and disillusionment — and then throw in the towel.

As fate would have it, Burn.Flicker.Die. eventually proved itself to be the band's most successful release to date. Critics loved it. Fans rallied behind it. Fast forward 2 years and almost 500 shows later, the band has traveled the world, quadrupled their fan base and reinvented their passion for the road. When the time came to record another album in June 2014, it only made sense to do something that celebrated survival rather than failure.

The result? Wolves, which Barham describes as "the sound of a band firing on all cylinders". Produced by Megafaun's Brad Cook and recorded during a 20-day stay at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC, Wolves was funded entirely by American Aquarium's diehard fanbase. The album's 10 tracks represent a departure from the band's signature twang. Instead drawing more from the alternative rock sound that inspired their name almost a decade ago. Wolves blends the twang of the pedal steel with the dark, dirty swirl of two electric guitars, creating a sound that's fit for the roadhouse, the honky tonk and the dive bar. Barham has certainly spent time in all three, but now looks to brighter horizons in these new songs.

"I've always written about being the drunk guy at the bar at 2 a.m.," he admits. "I've written about the pick-up lines and the drinking and the drugs. This record is more personal than that. It's a coming of age record."

It's also a record that reaffirms his faith in American Aquarium, a band he started in 2006. Since that time, more than 25 musicians have passed through the group's ranks. In recent years though, things have felt a lot more stable. Ryan Johnson, Bill Corbin, Whit Wright, Kevin McClain and the newest addition, Colin Dimeo, round out the group, turning Barham's songs into fiery, fleshed-out compositions.

With Wolves, which hit stores in early 2015, American Aquarium is literally bigger and better.

"We were legitimized by Burn.Flicker.Die.," Barham says. "That album was a breakup record with the road. It basically said, 'This is our last album, this is why we're quitting, and hey, thanks for the memories.' Fast-forward, though, and we've got a new record that says, 'We ain't done yet.'"
Curtis McMurtry
Curtis McMurtry
Curtis McMurtry writes about villains that think they're victims. Influenced by Fiona Apple, Billy Strayhorn and Leonard Cohen, Curtis' music combines piercing lyrics with lush chords and unusual arrangements. His first solo album Respectable Enemy was released in August 2014, and drew comparisons to Calexico and John Fullbright. His sophomore album The Hornet's Nest is was released in February 2017, and continues to garner critical acclaim.

Curtis was born and raised in Austin, Texas and grew up listening to local musicians Warren Hood, Ephraim Owens, Seela, and his father, James McMurtry. Curtis studied music composition and ethnomusicology in college, primarily writing contemporary chamber music for banjo and strings. After graduation, Curtis moved to Nashville to sharpen his songwriting by co-writing with elder statesmen including Fred Koller and Guy Clark. He has since moved back to Austin where he performs as a quartet with cellist Diana Burgess (of Mother Falcon), upright bassist Taylor Turner (of Magia Negra) and trumpeter Nathan Calzada.

"Backed by a stand-up bass, cello and occasionally a horn section, the 24-year-old McMurtry epitomizes the catch-all nature of Americana" - Rollingstone.com

"Simply put, at 23, McMurtry's dark and deep debut solo album, Respectable Enemy, marks him as a world-class talent who not just stands on his own merits, but soars on them."
- Thomas Gerbasi, New York Examiner

"The second album by McMurtry shows its conceptual ambition in the way it coheres, exploring a range of emotions through a variety of personae. From the vulnerable innocence of the opening “Hard Blue Stones” through the corpse picked clean on the closing “Silver World,” the 13-song cycle shimmers through the desires and flaws of a shared humanity. ." - Don McLeese, No Depression
Kenny George Band
Kenny George Band
Music’s elders and icons established the initial template for Rock ‘n’ Roll, but it’s the newer generation that keeps it thriving and moving forward. So credit the Kenny George Band for doing exactly that. Comprised of Kenny George (lead guitar, vocals, songwriter), Bucky Brown (drums, harmony vocals), Center Ely (steel guitar), Brooks Andrews (bass) and Scott Rankin (rhythm guitar, harmony vocals), this hardworking ensemble has earned their stripes the hard way. Performing an average of 150 to 180 shows per year throughout the heartland, they bring their music to the masses one gig at a time.

“Our goal has always been to connect with our audiences,” George insists. “Our music is honest and organic, and we deliberately avoid pretence. We may seem like a ragtag bunch, but there’s a passion, purpose and sincerity that underscores everything we do, and hopefully that’s apparent even the first time you hear us play.”

Hailing from Aiken, South Carolina, the Kenny George Band has created an indelible impression with fans throughout the Southeast and Midwest, playing 250 concerts in the last two years alone. They’ve travelled the highways and byways between North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Missouri, reconnecting with their fervent followers and picking up new fans along the way. Their explosive live performances have made them a band on the brink of a breakout, and it’s little wonder that in 2016, they were voted South Carolina Artists to Watch by the South Carolina Music Guide.

Tempered by the time they’ve spent on the road, the band’s latest album, Borrowed Trouble, looks at life, longing and relationships through the vast spectrum of constant tours and travel. Like the road itself, it dips and sways, advancing not in a straight line, but rather in a series of circuitous twists and turns that reveal a uniquely personal perspective every step along the way. These are songs infused with tattered circumstance and a view of life as seen looking out the windows of one’s touring van, where miles of highway offer plenty of time for reflection and contemplation. The music is underscored by a drive and determination that makes it both engaging and enlightening in equal measure. It’s melodic, it’s measured, and it’s often gritty, but it’s a sound that resonates in ways that are both tender and tenacious.

That’s no accident. George himself has been drawn to music most of his life. He picked up the violin at the age of eight, but didn’t take to formal lessons, so he then took up bass. Eventually though, he decided that guitar would be the better match. “My dad told me that the guitar players get all the girls,” he laughs. “So he bought me my first guitar as a gift when I graduated from junior high. I learned to make music on that guitar and I’m pleased to say I still have it to this very day.”

Inspired by the sounds of the burgeoning Americana movement -- bands like Whiskeytown and Wilco, and later the so-called “Outlaw” country clan -- indeniable icons like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and Townes Van Zandt -- George later immersed himself in probing the roots of the rock and country crossover, exploring the Southern California singer/songwriter scene by way of Jackson Browne, the Eagles and J.D. Souther. He attended the University of Montevallo in Alabama, majoring in classical guitar and later studying special education for the deaf and hard of hearing. Forced to drop out after losing his funding, he turned his attention to writing songs. That’s when he met drummer Bucky Brown and the two decided to start a band. Relocating to Aiken, they found pedal steel player Center Ely, who George describes as shy and unassuming, but a wiz when it comes to fixing their gear. At first they played covers while honing their chops in the local bar scene, then began phasing in original material as well. “We went through bass players like Spinal Tap went through drummers,” George chuckles, referring to the continuing need to fill that anchor spot. “When we found Brooks, we knew we had the right guy. It was worth going through half a dozen candidates just to find the one that fit.”

The last to join was guitarist Scott Rankin, an acquaintance of Kenny’s who had asked him to fill in for a show when Rankin’s second guitarist had to bow out of the gig at the last minute. “Little did I know, we would play a four hour show,” George recalls. “But it did give us a chance to perform together and that inspired us to play together even more after that. We decided we sounded pretty good, and eventually I was able to coax him into joining our band.”

In the interim, George took a brief hiatus in New York City to work with producer Damien Dash, but the cold New York winter, lack of opportunity and the steep cost of living prompted him to return home less than five months later. It proved to be a good decision, and with three releases under their belt -- the Gunshy EP (their 2014 debut), Zac Brown Sessions (a prize bestowed as the result of winning a songwriting contest in 2013), and Live From Sky City (recorded in concert in Augusta, Georgia) -- and their latest, Borrowed Trouble, set to release in late April, the Kenny George Band is poised to garner new admirers and consolidate an already ample following all at the same time.

​“It takes time to really make a mark,” George reckons. “It’s a slow process and there’s a lot of work involved. However, as long as we can share our experiences and build relationships with our audiences, I feel we’re making progress all along the way.”
Venue Information:
The Grey Eagle
185 Clingman Ave
Asheville, NC, 28801
http://www.thegreyeagle.com/