BLUES & BEYOND: Area roots icons Amy Ray and William Bell keep Georgia on their minds
Ray’s new album sparkles, Bell receives yet another award
Releasing ten albums is an impressive achievement for any musician. But considering that’s in addition to Amy Ray’s work with Indigo Girls, for which she has written tunes on all of the duo’s 15 (or so) studio sets, it’s especially remarkable.
The Decatur born Ray (now residing in Dahlonega) and musical partner Emily Saliers started their partnership back in 1985, with an indie debut a few years later. But once their self-titled major label debut sophomore disc hit in 1989, with notable contributions from early supporter Michael Stipe, they were off and running on a folk/rock career that hasn’t let up for 37 years and counting.
Ray initially kicked off her solo stint with 2001’s punky Stag, recorded like all her work for her own locally-based Daemon Records label. Through the decades she has gravitated to a more soulful Southern roots rock, country and folk approach. That’s the sound of If It All Goes South, her first since 2018’s similarly styled Holler. Ray’s seven piece band gets assistance from high profile Americana artists such as Brandi Carlile, Allison Russell, Natalie Hemby and Sarah Jarosz among others.
While this isn’t straight blues, Ray combines the sweet and salty strains of Memphis soul with gospel, country, bluegrass and other rootsy styles loosely defined as “Southern.” The noir jazz of “Tear It Down” mixes countrypolitan with a bluesy sensibility highlighted by stand-up bass. The opening “Joy Train” takes a stroll on the swampy side and Hemby replaces Emily on harmony vocals for the lovely, melancholy ballad “From This Room.” Everything marinates in the steamy humidity of the local environment, making it one of this year’s finest local releases as well as a highlight of Ray’s work, both as a solo act and even with her full time Indigo Girls gig.
It’s no secret that we’re partial to all things William Bell in Blues & Beyond. After all, how many living soul/blues legends do we have residing in the Atlanta area? Last month we highlighted "One Day Closer to Home," a terrific new song from him, and now let’s give the singer/songwriter some more love and respect as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Radio and Records Association. The recent press release states that “The Radio and Record Awards ceremony was created to recognize those individuals past and present who have contributed and dedicated their time in radio and music and in the community as a whole.”
And in even more William Bell news, Bruce Springsteen includes a version of two Bell classics, “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” and “Any Other Way” on the Boss’ new Only the Strong Survive set.
Also of note, Bell has just opened a new online merchandise store just in time for the holidays. Powered by Redbubble, you may shop here.
Chalk up more accolades for the hard working 83 year old Bell, an Atlanta-based veteran who hasn’t slowed down his pace or his dedication to helping young musicians navigate the music industry as he ages.
It’s Thanksgiving so let’s appreciate the Blues & Beyond shows happening this month … and throughout the year.
Tues., Nov. 1
Southern Culture on the Skids, City Winery — It’s always a party when this trio hits town for another trawl down the trailer parks, dirt track races and greasy food joints that have informed their low-rent Southern existence for the past four decades. The classier, candle-lit and craft beer/wine environs of the City Winery would seem the antithesis of everything SCOTS promotes, but their music oughta bring enough sleaze to at least allow for some flying fried chicken from the stage.
$20-30. 8:00 p.m. City Winery, 650 North Ave. NE., 30308.404-496-3791. citywinery.com/Atlanta
Thurs., Nov. 3
George Shingleton, The Eastern/Rooftop — Shingleton’s taking a “Greyhound to Georgia,” as the title of his hit song promises, and that’s not far from the Nashville neighborhood the gruff voiced country singer calls home. He rides in promoting 2019’s outlawish debut and a similarly styled 2021 EP, both of which have multiple songs about drinking, specifically whisky, which he clearly has an affinity to. —Hal Horowitz
$25-49. 8:00 p.m. The Eastern, 777 Memorial Dr. SE., Atlanta, 30316. easternatl.com
Fri., Nov. 4
Shane Smith & the Saints, Terminal West — The Texas based, gritty vocals of Smith and his backing quartet have been banging out soulful country rock for over a decade mixing Neil Young’s Crazy Horse bluster with a more sensitive approach. They have recently moved to headliner status with their latest disc split halfway between acoustic and electric sides.
$20-22. 8:30 p.m. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW C., Atlanta, 30318. 404-876-5566. terminalwest.com
Sat., Nov. 5
The Lone Bellow, Variety Playhouse — Local favorites, even though the trio moved from Georgia to Brooklyn, The Lone Bellow celebrate their 10th anniversary playing rootsy yet room filling, sing-along, even anthemic folk/pop similar to The Lumineers. They will feature songs from their new self-produced fifth album Love Songs for Losers.
$27.50-49.50. 8 p.m. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE. Atlanta, GA. 30307. 404-504-7354. variety-playhouse.com
Rayland Baxter, Terminal West — Tennessee bred Baxter, the son of noted pedal steel guitarist Bucky Baxter, has gradually created a catalog of heartfelt singer/songwriter tunes that incorporate soul, pop and folk/rock influences. He will be playing material from a recent fourth album,If I Were a Butterfly, recorded in five states with a litany of musicians.
$20-25. 8:30 p.m. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW C., Atlanta, 30318. 404-876-5566. terminalwest.com
Sun., Nov. 6
Vince Herman, Smith’s Olde Bar — Longtime co-leader of “jamgrass” stars Leftover Salmon hits the road to promote his first solo album, Enjoy the Ride, out Nov. 18. His John Prine-influenced songs, played by all-star cast of supporting musicians, are pretty far removed from his full time gig, but the Americana singer/songwriter material is catchy and sharply written and his name recognition will likely make this a popular event.
$15-20. 8:00 p.m. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522 sobatl.com
Tues., Nov. 8
Slaid Cleaves, Eddie’s Attic — Rootsy singer songwriter Cleaves is a veteran of the folk/country genre who has been releasing impressive, often under the radar, albums since his 1990 debut. A frequent Eddie’s visitor, his songs of ordinary people struggling to get by highlight his latest album, 2017’s typically beautifully crafted Ghost on a Car Radio.
$25. 8:00 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Wed., Nov. 9
Corb Lund/Lauren Morrow, The Garden Club at Wild Heaven West End — This co-headliner show features veteran Canadian country songsmith Lund, riding high on a new covers set Songs My Friends Wrote. Also featured is singer Morrow who many might know better as Lauren Staley, one-time front woman from rugged Atlanta country rockers The Whiskey Gentry, now moved to Nashville to work as an indie country artist.
$18-22. 8:00 p.m. The Garden Club at Wild Heaven West End, 1010 White St. SW, 30310. 404-254-2232. wildheavenbeer.com/locations
Fri., Nov. 11
Carsie Blanton, Red Clay Theater — “Quirky” is the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Blanton’s fizzy pop/folk/jazz/soul material, much of which feature humorous socio-political diatribes sung in her charmingly scratchy voice. Don’t be distracted by the Little Orphan Annie hair and pixieish looks, she’s a serious songwriter and a consummate musician who engages the audience into her performances.
$30. 8:00 p.m. Red Clay Music Foundry, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522.
Fri., Nov. 11 - Sat., Nov. 12
Robyn Hitchcock, Eddie’s Attic — Now pushing 70, the ex-Soft Boys frontman has been crafting uniquely idiosyncratic rock/pop indie music with truly bizarre, avant-garde lyrics since the mid-70s. This two night stand allows his cult fans to get a deeper look into his bulging catalog of about two dozen albums. His most recent, 2017’s self-titled release is, perhaps surprisingly, one of his best as it incorporates elements of psychedelic pop and twisted county.
$25. 7:00 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Sat., Nov. 12
Blues Stotts, Blind Willie‘s — This year’s annual event features the all-woman outfit Blue Velvet and Albert White. They appear to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in the memory of the late local blues maven Larry Stotts. It’s terrific local music and of course all for good cause.
$TBA. 6:00 p.m. Blind Willie’s, 828 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta, 30306. 404-873-2583. blindwilliesblues.com
Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, Dwight Yoakam, Katie Pruitt, Mercedes Benz Stadium — This is quite the lineup of country superstars with two headliners in Stapleton and Lambert who could probably fill this enormodome on their own. Lambert’s Vegas slickness though is a far cry from Stapleton’s soulful croon and far less glitzy approach. Arrive early for pure roots country icon Yoakam who has fallen from grace in popularity lately but with an incredible and spacious catalog of music to choose from.
$59-300. 7:30 p.m. Mercedes Benz Stadium, 1 AMB Dr. NW, 30313. 470-341-5000. mercedesbenzstadium.com
Sun., Nov. 13
Sam Bush Band, City Winery — Mention Bush’s name to any bluegrass aficionado and their eyes will immediately light up with the recognition of one of the founders of the “newgrass” movement. Mandolinist Bush (he also plays fiddle) helped bring the genre to a younger audience as founder of the 70’s era influential New Grass Revival. As a member of the Nash Ramblers he backed up Emmylou Harris for a stint. There are too many more accomplishments to list here but he’s a living legend who seldom plays Atlanta, which alone should guarantee a sell out at this intimate venue.
$44-55. 8:00 p.m. City Winery, 650 North Ave. NE., 30308.404-496-3791. citywinery.com/Atlanta
The Weight Band, Eddie’s Attic — As the name implies, The Weight Band takes its rootsy influences from The Band. The connection is particularly pertinent as guitarist/singer/songwriter Jim Weider was a member of the post-Robertson group for a spell and keyboardist Brian Mitchell played in Levon Helm’s outfit. But this is no simple cover act. TWB has two impressive albums of Americana originals. Live, they’ll throw in plenty of Band and maybe Grateful Dead tunes too. Note the early start time.
$37.50-50.00. 6:00 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Tues., Nov. 15
The Last Waltz Tour, Coca-Cola Roxy — Frontman Warren Haynes takes a holiday break from his full time Gov’t Mule gig to lead this annual multi-artist tribute to The Band’s last concert. Like that famous show, which occurred on Thanksgiving Day 1976, different singers and musicians are involved, sharing the spotlight to perform The Band’s and other artist’s songs from that event. This year’s tour, approved by Robbie Robertson which provides all the credibility it needs, features Don Was, Anders Osborne, Cyril Neville and a full horn section among many others. Surprise guests are also aboard making this a must-see show that, like the original, may not be repeated.
$49.00 - 129.00. 8:00 p.m. Coca-Cola Roxy, 800 Battery Ave. SE #500, 30339. livenation.com/venue/KovZ917ACc7/coca-cola-roxy-events
Cory Branan, Eddie’s Attic — The folk/rock singer/songwriter returns after a hiatus, plugging a superb new album When I Go I Ghost, his first in five years. He’s been at this since 2001, but has never been particularly prolific and hasn’t played here in years. His dark humor is evident in the title of his 2014 release, No Hit Wonder, and his new set is one of his finest.
$12. 7:00 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Courtney Marie Andrews/The Dead Tongues, Smith’s Olde Bar — She’s not quite “the new Joni Mitchell,” but there is no doubt that Andrews shares a similar folk/pop and vocal style with the early years of the iconic Canadian artist. She’s supporting a wonderful new album Loose Future, her eighth. Much of Andrews’ previous work has focused on often downbeat tales from the heart, but on this she rejoices in a recent positive relationship.
$17-20. 8:00 p.m. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522. sobatl.com
Fri., Nov. 18
Sunny Sweeney, Smith’s Olde Bar — If country singer/songwriter Sweeney’s new breakup album Married Alone becomes as popular as it should based on its combination of forthright lyrics, honest vocals and memorable melodies, this is the last time you’ll get to see the veteran (her first album was released in 2007) in a space this cozy. Don’t miss it.
$15-20. 8:00 p.m. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522. sobatl.com
Fri., Nov. 18 - Sat., Nov. 19
Faye Webster, Variety Playhouse — Billed as “An Evening With,” Atlanta’s Webster cherry picks from her three albums and a recent EP. There’s no denying the Billie Eilish quality of her hushed vocals, but the combination of indie singer/songwriter material with country and even subtle soul is unique. Her 2021 album even notched Top 10 status on Billboard’s Folk chart. That along with her recent opening slot for some HAIM shows and this rare two night stand prove she’s headed for the next level.
$27.50-49.50. 8:30 p.m. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE. Atlanta, GA. 30307. 404-504-7354. variety-playhouse.com
Sat., Nov. 19
Curtis Salgado, Blind Willie‘s — Singer/songwriter and somewhat underappreciated harmonica ace Salgado is a veteran of the soul/blues genre, having gone professional at age 16 (he’s now 68). He has been a short lived member of high profile acts like Santana, Roomful of Blues and the Robert Cray Band, among others, but has led his own group for decades. Health problems sidelined him for a while, but he’s back in action with a new album. Salgado is the very definition of a journeyman and is guaranteed to turn in a smoking set.
$TBA. 9:30 p.m. Blind Willie’s, 828 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta, 30306. 404-873-2583. blindwilliesblues.com
Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics, Anita Aysola, The Garden Club at Wild Heaven West End — Though they were initially formed in Florida, powerhouse vocalist Velle and her horn propelled band have been Atlanta based for many years. Soulful but not retro, Velle and Co. look to Stax and Motown as influences, yet write contemporary material that forges a distinctive path. Tough, exciting and powerful.
$20-25. 8:00 p.m. The Garden Club at Wild Heaven West End, 1010 White St. SW, 30310. 404-254-2232. wildheavenbeer.com
Sat., Nov. 19 - Sun, Nov. 20
Morgan Wade, Eddie’s Attic — Three shows, all sold out, speak to the popularity of punky, tattooed country singer Wade. Her 2021 debut Reckless was a surprise hit due to her dark, soulful drawl and raw country melodies. This is the last time she will play a joint this intimate but you may have to access the secondary market to score a ticket. It’ll probably be worth it though.
Sold out. Sat. 7:00 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., Sun. 6:00 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Fri., Nov. 25
Blackberry Smoke/Drivin’ N’ Cryin’/Georgia Satellites, Fox Theater — Whoah, what a lineup. Billed as a “homecoming show,” this threesome of Atlanta natives pushes the boundaries of Southern roots rocking in all sorts of directions. The headliners have absorbed influences from both support acts to become ambassadors of Atlanta’s red clay music, past and present. It has been a while since the Satellites have played and that, with the promise of special guests, makes this a sure bet for a roof raising show.
$34.50 - 99.50. 8:00 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St.NE., 30308. 404-321-5000. www.foxtheater.org
Joe Alterman, Eddie’s Attic — Atlanta’s Alterman has been spreading his soulful piano magic around the country lately. Heavily influenced by his late friend Ramsey Lewis, Alterman combines R&B, pop, blues and jazz into a jubilant concoction that displays his quick fingers and sheer joy of playing. Maybe he’ll even do a version of “The In Crowd” if pressed.
$20. 7:00 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976.eddiesattic.com
Sat., Nov. 26
Shawn Mullins, Variety Playhouse — Atlanta folk pop celebrity Mullins had already put in a decade of under-the-radar work when his “Lullaby” became an unlikely 1995 smash. Nothing since has resonated on a national level, but he has never stopped making honest and soulful music. Once prolific, his last studio set of originals was back in 2015, although a recent 2021 single, a duet with Cat Ridgeway, shows he remains in fine voice and can still belt ‘em out with potent vitality. Show him some local love.
$29.50-49.50. 8 p.m. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE. Atlanta, GA. 30307. 404-504-7354. variety-playhouse.com
American Aquarium/David Ramirez, Terminal West — At this point, North Carolina’s American Aquarium is pretty much frontman B.J. Barham and a bunch of other guys. Regardless, his husky, emotional voice leads the often changing lineup of his band, now nearly two decades old, as they traverse introspective Americana with ringing melodies and picturesque lyrical detail. They tour behind this year’s compelling Chicamcomico.
$20-25. 8:00 p.m. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW C., Atlanta, 30318. 404-876-5566. terminalwest.com
Sun., Nov. 27 - Mon., Nov.28
Kristian Bush & Friends, Eddie’s Attic — Jennifer Nettles might be the voice of Sugarland, but co-founder/frontperson Bush is its secret weapon. He has clearly been stockpiling songs, as evidenced by the four volumes of 52 (!) new folk/country/pop originals he released this year. This four show stand provides plenty of time to pick and choose from those albums. Plus, the “& friends” title might mean some local celebrities will help celebrate this annual Eddie’s Thanksgiving tradition.
$25. Sun.6:00 & 8:30 p.m., Mon. 7:00 & 9:30 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Fri., Dec. 2
Son Little/Lizzie No, Smith’s Olde Bar — Little’s homespun voice, somewhat similar to that of Bill Withers, pushes his indie soul into directions by Sly Stone, Bob Marley, War, Steve Wonder and, sure Withers. His latest album is a searing yet easygoing and overwhelmingly melodic, personal project that finds the singer/songwriter at his most vulnerable.
$20. 8:00 p.m. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522. sobatl.com
Please send upcoming blues events to consider for CL’s Blues & Beyond concert calendar to firstname.lastname@example.org.