BLUES & BEYOND: Ansley Stewart sings
Atlanta’s blues ’n’ soul pop diva delivers new and old songs with a clutch of November shows
If there was any question about what Atlanta based roots/pop/soul performer Ansley Stewart does, it’s answered by the name of her web page; Ansleystewartsings.com.
The veteran vocalist has been involved in music since she can remember, going back to piano lessons in third grade. In middle school her influences were Celine Dion and Mariah Carey which gradually morphed into the less commercial, more roots style of the Grateful Dead, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson and even Nirvana. She fronted her first outfit in senior year of college (colorfully named Slang Jangles), which solidified her dedication to singing, then moved back to her Athens hometown and sang regularly while keeping a steady job. Stewart relocated to Atlanta in 2016, making the always challenging transition to a full-time musician as a guest vocalist for the ATL Collective and other acts, while working under her own name. “I love this city,” she writes.
And the city seems to love her back. She has played most major venues here, either as headliner or support, building a following of like-minded roots fans that keep increasing as more experience her commanding voice and determined stage presence.
Stewart has been a visible, vibrant artist around town for years, gradually forming a collective comprised of respected local journeymen that now includes the rhythm section of Darren Stanley (bassist; Col. Bruce, Jimmy Herring) and Robbie Handley (drummer; Lera Lynn, ATL Music Collective Director) who began playing together as far back as college. Add stellar guitarists Nick Johnson (Randall Bramblett Band) and Dave Yoke, two of the city’s finest, for a stunning outfit that can follow Stewart down her diverse paths of music and improvise if needed. They formed “organically” (her word), and are friends when not playing too.
Over the years she has opened for some of her idols like Mavis Staples and local icon Gladys Knight (a video of one song from that 2017 Atlanta Botanical Garden show is here). It has taken a while to write enough original material to record a full album (a six song EP was released in 2017), but that’s almost complete and slated for a 2024 release with a tour following.
No need to wait though. You can get an advance of her new music in November as Stewart and band are booked for a rare residency at From the Earth Brewery. It stemmed from a great performance there in June of this year, after which she and owner Tim Stevens scheduled the November gigs. She, along with her stellar backing players, perform four times in four consecutive weeks; the 9th, 16th, 24th, and 30th of this month. Start time is 7:30 p.m.
Stewart is rightfully stoked for these dates and ready to unleash her powerful pipes weekly, likely with different set lists. This allows her to try out the upcoming material, dig into some crowd-pleasing oldies, and expand her audience performing a higher profile clutch of shows with musicians, and in a venue, she loves. It’s the perfect scene for those unfamiliar with her to get a dose of her talents and for established fans to glimpse Stewart’s next career move.
Giving thanks once again for so many roots shows in and around Atlanta. Here are a few highlights.
Chris Isaak, Buckhead Theatre — Isaak’s retro twang is so perfect for reinterpreting Christmas fare that he has released two studio albums and a live one of holiday songs, along with at least one television special, performing them in his Elvis “Blue Christmas” meets Roy Orbison noir country style. His seasonal originals reflect his notoriously dry humor with titles like “Dogs Love Christmas Too,” “Wrapping Presents for Myself,” and the rockabilly jolt of “Help Me Baby Jesus.” Guaranteed a great time even if you have no interest in the holiday.
$TBA 8:00 p.m. Buckhead Theater, 3110 Roswell Rd. NE, 30305. 404-843-2825. thebuckheadtheatre.com
Southern Culture on the Skids, City Winery — Has it really been 30 years reveling in all things white trashy with SCOTS’ distinctive brand of low rent, high energy rockabilly, surf rock, and retro pop? The original trio just keeps cranking out great albums, playing their handful of “hits,” and delivering the boisterous party goods every night. It’s a rowdy great time, even if the rather staid environment of the venue is a far cry from their old Star Bar days.
$22-33. 8:00 p.m. City Winery, Ponce City Market, 650 North Ave. NE., 30308. 404-496-3791. citywinery.com/Atlanta
Shakey Graves, Rayland Baxter, The Eastern — Alejandro Rose-Garcia, as frontman for Austin’s Shakey Graves won 2015’s Best Emerging Artist trophy at the Americana Music Awards. Since then he has confounded expectations by recording a combination of folk, country, blues and roots songs that are as eclectic as that diverse batch of genres implies. His recent Deadstock release finds him floating in roots and, occasionally, psychedelic waters. Opener Baxter’s approach is similarly eclectic, often weirder, making this an intriguing bill. —Hal Horowitz
$33-37. 8:00 p.m. The Eastern, 777 Memorial Dr. SE., Atlanta, 30316. easternatl.com
LANCO, Meghan Patrick, Willie Tate, Terminal West — The all caps LANCO (an abbreviation of Lancanster and Company, referencing frontman Brandon Lancaster), mixes strong doses of bluesy rock and roll with county and pop. While that could describe numerous bands, these guys crank out some solid licks and catchy choruses. When they slow down to ballads, the result is 2017s chart topping “Greatest Love Story.” Their new release finds them getting funky too. Slick but well done.
$25-30. 8:00 p.m. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW Ste. C., Atlanta, 30318. 404-876-5566. terminalwestatl.com
My Morning Jacket, Devon Gilfillian, Fox Theater — This two-night stand from the Americana rockers features the band playing 2003s breakthrough title It Still Moves in its entirety on Friday, then excavating their catalog for other material the following day. Which means hardcore fans should probably attend both. In either case the Jim James fronted five-piece is a compelling and incredibly soulful rock band whose talent and widescreen songs build slowly until hitting a roaring, heart palpitating climax. Even if you’re not a fan, their live prowess is exhilarating.
$32.50-79.50. 8 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St.NE., 30308. 404-321-5000. foxtheater.org
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave., Dumpsterphunk, The Soul Rebels, The Eastern — Bring your Mardi Gras beads and prepare for an evening of New Orleans funk, jazz and rock as Shorty and his openers blow the walls of the Eastern down. Those who have seen Shorty’s animated show know what to expect and anyone who has somehow missed it should be prepared for a performance that the word “energized” simply doesn’t do justice to. It’s a sweat-soaked hyper-party, Shorty is a riveting frontman and his band is tight and frantic enough to make James Brown’s seem laid-back in comparison.
$38-45. 7:15 p.m. The Eastern, 777 Memorial Dr. SE., Atlanta, 30316. easternatl.com
Tre’ Burt, Skyway Man, Vinyl — West Coast singer/songwriter Burt was one of the first artists John Prine signed to his Oh Boy label. Prine has passed, but Burt continues to fine-tune his smooth folk/pop with the new Traffic Fiction, his third for the imprint. His voice is similar to that of Peter Case and he has Case’s knack for creating melodic, catchy folk rock. As usual, Prine was on target.
$17. 8:00 p.m. Vinyl, 1374 West Peachtree St., Marietta, 30309.404-885-1365. centerstage-atlanta.com
Della Mae, Maya De Vitry, Eddie’s Attic — The Boston based Grammy nominated headliners, formed in 2009, were one of the first all-female bluegrass outfits. Despite a flurry of players passing through their ranks over the years, they remain one of the finest. There’s pop, rock and singer/songwriter elements in their music, which helps with crossing over to a wider audience, and their harmony vocals are splendid. Opener De Vitry plays a softer, less frisky, more introspective folk pop.
$25. 6 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Denny Laine, Eddie’s Attic — It’s billed as “Songs and Stories” and Laine, as a an original member of the Moody Blues — and later playing shotgun to McCartney in Wings — has plenty of both. Now pushing 80, he’ll be choosing from a clutch of under-the-radar yet consistently solid solo albums and of course throw a few bones our way with some Band on the Run chestnuts — and maybe even an early Moody Blues song.
$30-45. 7 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
The Paper Kites & the Roadhouse Band, The Cactus Blossoms, Terminal West — Australia’s Paper Kites revel in an atmospheric, laconic and hauntingly melodic country rock. They tour supporting a wonderful new album At the Roadhouse with some extra members that help flesh out the sound, but it’s frontman singer/songwriter Sam Bentley’s evocative songs and voice that push their material from good to great. The openers’ acoustic folk pop with sumptuous harmonies are rightly compared to the Everly Brothers. A great double bill.
$27.50. 8:00 p.m. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW Ste. C., Atlanta, 30318. 404-876-5566. terminalwestatl.com
George Thorogood, City Springs Performing Arts Center/ Byers Theater — It’s “Bad to the Bone”’s 40th anniversary, so it’s time for Thorogood to hit the road and play that bad boy one more time. At 73, blues rocker Thorogood won’t have the Energizer bunny vitality of his old self, but he always delivers the goods. His last release, an acoustic set, was six years ago, so expect some unplugged action. But when he and the band crank out their tough barroom boogie, no one can touch him.
$60.35-92.+. 8 p.m. City Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs, 30328. 770-206-2022. citysprings.com
Ansley Stewart, From the Earth Brewing Company — See above story. Future dates are Nov. 16, 24 and 30.
$TBA 8 p.m. From the Earth Brewing Company, 1570 Holcomb Bridge Rd., Roswell, 30076. 770-910-9799. ftebrewing.com
Hiss Golden Messenger, Adeem the Artist, Terminal West — M.C.Taylor has been releasing albums under the HGM alias with a rotating group of backing musicians since 2009, and it’s tough to find a consistent musical thread. From the spooky swamp of his debut to his newest Jump for Joy, that as the title implies, feels lighter than most of his stuff, Taylor’s soulful voice and knack for a rootsy pop melody remain in impressive form. Arrive early for Adeem whose bluesy singer/songwriter country influenced rock has generated deserved attention.
$25. 8:00 p.m. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW Ste. C., Atlanta, 30318. 404-876-5566. terminalwestatl.com
Nick Lowe with Los Straitjackets, Variety Playhouse — The combination of pub rocker turned adult crooner Lowe with Los Straitjackets’ surfy, vibrato heavy, instrumental prowess lights a fire under the singer. The last time through was a Christmas show but this gig will lik Dig My Mood from 2008 in an expanded edition, so we’ll likely get some gems from that release. And of course he’ll reprise the evergreen “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” a song even more pertinent today than when he wrote it 50 years ago.
$30-35. 8:00 p.m. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE. Atlanta, 30307. 404-504-7354. variety-playhouse.com
EG Kight, Eddie’s Attic — Even without her longtime band, as she is tonight, Kight’s bluesy, soulful Southern music is stunning. She’s nicknamed “The Georgia Songbird” for good reason, bringing jazzy inflections to her red clay music. Kight also has a terrific new album, Sticks & Strings, another in a long line of quality releases, where she dials into a stunning cover of Gregg Allman’s “Come and Go Blues.” Wonderful stuff so let’s support this local roots veteran.
$20. 6 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Jontavious Willis, Eddie’s Attic — Georgia’s widely respected, deep folk/blues practitioner Willis’ most recent album is now four years old, so it’s likely he will be introducing new music this evening. Like Mudcat, who he has played with, Willis plumbs the depth of folk blues with humor and intensity. Classy, authentic and moving. And he’s a great guy too.
$26.70. 6 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Walter Trout, City Winery — Hard-edged, blues rocking guitarist Trout has rebounded from serious health issues (His 2019 release was titled Survivor Blues) to regain his status as one of the finest, loudest and most intense players on the scene. Even before the release of two dozen solo albums, he logged high-profile stints with John Mayall and Canned Heat, so he knows how to deliver a scorching show and own the stage. He’s got the songs, the voice and the six-string talent to make him one of the finest living electric blues players whose passionate solos will leave you floored. Don’t miss him.
$30-40. 8:00 p.m. City Winery, Ponce City Market, 650 North Ave. NE., 30308. 404-496-3791. citywinery.com/Atlanta
Caitlin Krisko & the Broadcast, Jamie McLean Band, Smith’s Olde Bar — Initially known as The Broadcast, this North Carolina soul/funk/pop outfit put its lead singer’s name up front to attract more attention. It’s a sensible move since her tough/sensual vocals push the already expressive material on their three albums to the next level. Opener blues rocking guitarist McLean is usually a headliner making this a dynamite double bill.
$15-18. 8:00 p.m. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522. sobatl.com
Mike Farris and the Fortunate Few, Eddie’s Attic — His days leading the hard blues rocking Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies are far behind, as searing, soaring, soul vocalist Farris has been releasing solo albums since 2001. Initially he updated gospel standards but Farris has expanded to Memphis styled soul and for the better. He will doubtless play his recent cover of Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’’s “Honeysuckle Blue” and songs from the fabulous Silver & Stone from 2018.
$39.50. 7 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
The Trouble Notes, Atlas Wolf, Smith’s Olde Bar — Not to be confused with Atlanta’s Trouble Tones blues outfit, this well-traveled, eclectic, world music trio plays mostly instrumental music with strong Irish and gypsy influences. The musicianship is stunning and violinist Bennet is a force of nature, fiddling like a demon on fire. Intense and impactful.
$15-25. 8:00 p.m. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. NE, 30324. 404-875-1522. sobatl.com
Grace Potter, Eddie 9V, The Tabernacle — It’s singer/songwriter/keyboardist Potter’s “The Mother Road Tour,” named after the title of her new album with songs inspired by a cross country drive from California back to her Vermont home. Potter’s voice and approach is modeled on Sheryl Crow, as she writes hooky tunes with bluesy undercurrents. A few songs get roughed up, which suits her well, and Potter’s tendency to get a little slick should be tempered and toughened in the live setting. Get there early to cheer on local soul/blues up and comer Eddie 9V as opener.
$39-75+. 8:00 p.m. The Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St.NW., Atlanta, 30303. 404-659-9022. tabernacleatl.com
Charles Wesley Godwin, Variety Playhouse — Like Zach Bryan, who Godwin often opens larger shows for, his country music eschews most commercial considerations, preferring a harder edged, more organic sound. A new 19 track album, Family Ties, concerns what its title implies, and that honesty bleeds through the music’s darker, West Virginia roots.
$30-35. 8:00 p.m. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE. Atlanta, 30307. 404-504-7354. variety-playhouse.com
Drive-By Truckers, The Bad Ends, Early James, The Eastern — This one-time Athens based band just keeps getting better. Even though they play here at least once a year, the shows are always different and the Truckers’ Star Bar roots ensure they are welcomed as the local icons of literate Southern rock that they are. Look for a few extra songs from The Dirty South (2004) since it has recently been reissued and expanded. This bill is a particularly strong lineup with both openers delivering their unique versions of Southern blues, folk, country and indie rock.
$35.50-45. 8:00 p.m. The Eastern, 777 Memorial Dr. SE., Atlanta, 30316. easternatl.com
Blind Boys of Alabama, Eddie’s Attic — They are living legends but you’ll need to dig deep in your wallet to see these gospel veterans work their magic in this intimate space. It’s quite a show, with five harmonies and rotating lead singers (longtime member Jimmy Carter still fronts them at 85) bringing the church like only these guys can. Prepare for an unforgettable, even religious, experience as they focus on a remarkable new album Echoes of the South.
$72.31. 7 p.m. Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Blackberry Smoke, Coca-Cola Roxy — It’s always a party when Atlanta rockers Blackberry Smoke come home for their annual Thanksgiving shows. At this point, they are probably the most famous local rock band who still resides here, which makes this yearly gig a sure sell out. You never know who frontman/founder Charlie Starr will invite to share the fun, but it’ll be someone who shares his respect for the history of Southern rock and the part Smoke plays in exporting it to a national and international audiences. Better still, they will likely feature songs from an upcoming 2024 release Be Right Here with a cover featuring a replica of Atlanta’s skyline.
$47.50. 8:00 p.m. Coca-Cola Roxy, The Battery Atlanta, 800 Battery Ave. SE #500, 30339. livenation.com/venue/KovZ917ACc7/coca-cola-roxy-events
American Aquarium, Lance Roark, Terminal West — Founder B.J. Burnham has fronted this North Carolina alt-country outfit — he has also maintained an active solo career — since the late 2000s. Through many personnel iterations, they have found a larger cult audience. Burnham is the key of course, and his songwriting aims for the same sharp, literate, roots approach as the guys from Drive-By Truckers, Steve Earle or Jason Isbell. They will feature music from mouthful of a title Chicamacomico (2022), one of their finest.
$25-30. 8:30 p.m. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW Ste. C., Atlanta, 30318. 404-876-5566. terminalwestatl.com
Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’, Center Stage — Anyone even tangentially involved in Atlanta’s rmusic scene over the past four decades knows, and likely respects, Kevn Kinney and his longstanding D N C comrades. The band has flown the flag for gritty, red clay rocking, connecting the dots between edgy country, blues rock, indie sensibilities and sincere folk since the mid-‘80s and, regardless of trends, haven’t stopped since. They have enough “Straight to Hell” hits to fill mid-sized venues, at least in the Southeast, and they never phone it in, as their fiery performances always prove. If you’re one of the few who haven’t seen them yet, here is your chance to right that. If you have, it’s always worth getting yet another dose.
$30-45+. 8:00 p.m. Center Stage, 1374 West Peachtree St., Marietta, 30309.404-885-1365. centerstage-atlanta.com
Kristian Bush & Friends, Eddie’s Attic — It’s Bush’s annual two-day Thanksgiving blowout (two shows each night), as he invites (unannounced) friends to help him celebrate. Sugarland hasn’t released new music since 2018, so we may get an update on that band’s status. But Bush has plenty of solo material to play, and of course it’s always fun seeing who else shows up.
$32.26. 6 and 8 p.m. (2th), 7 and 9PM (27th). Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St., Decatur, 30030. 404-377-4976. eddiesattic.com
Joanne Shaw Taylor, Buckhead Theatre — UK blues-rocking guitar slinger Taylor has the Joe Bonamassa seal of approval (he plays and co-produces her recent albums), which has surely helped her visibility in an overcrowded crowded field. Regardless, the woman can hold her own, singing in a husky, soulful croon and writing impressive originals, some of which veer dangerously close to pop. She always has a great band and on stage is where it all comes together.
$39-99+. 8:00 p.m. Buckhead Theater, 3110 Roswell Rd. NE, 30305. 404-843-2825. thebuckheadtheatre.com
Buffalo Nichols, The EARL — All Carl “Buffalo” Nichols needs is a battered acoustic guitar and his bellowing baritone voice to deliver stark Delta blues with the authenticity of the folk-blues legends who defined the genre. But on his new album, he adds moderate electronics — synths and beats — to help shift the music to a more contemporary palette. It sounds like a crass move, but in reality those touches are subtle and work well. How far he will continue in this direction is unclear, but for the deep blues to survive, this might be a path worth following.
$15-18. 8:00 p.m. The EARL, 488 Flat Shoals Ave.NE, Atlanta, 30316. 404-522-3950. badearl.com
Neal Francis, The Psycodelics, Variety Playhouse — “Francis comes alive, 11 piece band show” touts the advance publicity for this tour. Blue-eyed soul dude Francis goes the Frampton route capturing a cool ‘70s light funk/R&B sound somewhere between Earth, Wind and Fire and the Average White Band. Kudos for a recent cover of the Brothers Johnson/Shuggie Otis’ hit “Strawberry Letter #23” which shows Francis at his low-key best, along with an unusually heartfelt version of the James Gang’s “Collage,” not a song many soul guys would gravitate to. Let’s hope, however, he doesn’t attempt 15 minutes of “Do You Feel Like We Do.”
$29.50. 8:00 p.m. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE. Atlanta, 30307. 404-504-7354. variety-playhouse.com
Please send upcoming blues events to consider for CL’s Blues & Beyond concert calendar to firstname.lastname@example.org.