Photo by Adam Smith
Where the dark water dances with the river banks of red clay you’ll find Tishamingo. They’re cookin’ up deep roots rock that’ll satisfy your soul. They hail from Tallahassee, FL and are located in Athens, GA, the mecca of living music. They just recorded their debut album with John Keane, the secret seventh member of Widespread Panic who engineers all of their albums and archived recordings. John’s big ears are bringing out the best in this band on their self-titled debut.

Tishamingo is swampwise. It’s as simple as that. One of the most remarkable things about this band is that they suffer not the lopsided dimension of singular writing. Three of these cats write the lyrics and that makes for a multifaceted perspective that many bands are not so lucky in commandeering. What's more, two of them have been easily vaulted by their gifts into the lofty embrace of fellow southern singers that very few can call familiar territory. Cameron Williams has a voice that really shines in its grizzled truth on this album and he is very much at home with Gregg Allman and John Bell on the front porch. Furthermore, his guitar plays perfectly with Jess Franklin’s and together they have a heavy double-barreled blues voice that howls.

As for Jess, well his guitar is way on out there in its greatness and his message cuts deep to my roots and can even wake a slumberin’ bear to action with the tickling breeze of his luminous truth. That is something that not many folks have in livin’ music. Stephen Spivey seems at home bein’ the grand master o’ thump on the bass. He just sews it all up as a real bassist should and his style makes me grin real wide. Now Richard Proctor is responsible for some of the more memorable stories on the disc and his keen sense of rhythm and textured power are enough to reanimate even the coldest heart. He shines on the kit throughout the entire album.

“People See” captures something remarkable in its shuffle and bounce. It just makes you want to get up and kick up some dirt, throwin’ elbows and stompin’ about.

Now nothing says high-octane country like pedal steel, and John Keane’s use of it on “Way Back Home” helps the band in makin’ it a beautiful song. It lifts your heart up and floats it down the river on an inner tube under the hot sun. The vocals and backing lines really make this one of the most remarkable songs I have heard in awhile. It has a sweetly lilting sound and an otherworldly jazzed-up flow to the guitars and the faint bird-calls are a sweet touch.

“Palmer March” is a beautiful lullaby. The organ of Jason Fuller really helps that song go places. When folks bring that much out of the music it makes your heart resonate with joy and celebration.

“Tradition” follows quickly on the marching heels with a very slow sway to it. That song has soulshine written all over it. That song makes me shed tears of joy and hope, makin’ me remember a place I hold dear to my heart. It picks you up and shuttles you across a dusty pasture, bouncin’ in the seat of a love tractor. The slide is what it’s all about. It just screams with the other guitar and that is something magical to hear.

“Little Red” chimes in at a good round of 4 minutes and 20 seconds and has this twang to it that wrinkles my ears with a shiver. That song could have been played back in the days of Robert Johnson, the keeper of the crossroads, and it would have been just as good then.

“Turry & The Tellico Militia” is what grassroots music is all about. The pedal steel, the bluegrass jangle, and a story sung with purpose. The French Broad River is something only a small group of intrepid folks know about and Richard’s reference to it in the story really speaks well of what the meaning of Southern Culture really is. It’s a feelin’ that is really captured throughout that song.

The song that stands out particularly for its intense and remarkable sound is “Last Ride.” It has this Latin vibe to it and it thrives on its deep and powerful groove. Reminds me of canopy roads with a head full of medicine. One word of caution though; “The First of the Day” will knock you flat on your ass if you have any clue about what’s funny in this dream we call the great life.

These fellas have heritage and they listened to the music of their home in the South. They heard everything and that is sometimes what it takes to tell the best story. With that alone you can build upon something that you can count on as family. We just need to remember to go find someone with some tradition. These kind folks can show you the way to Tishamingo. It’s closer than you think.

Laurin Wollan
JamBase | Baltimore
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[Published on: 2/16/03]

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