Tishamingo :: 02.26.05 :: Smith's Olde Bar :: Atlanta, GA

At the beginning of February, Tishamingo released their second album, the stellar Wear N' Tear. Touring in support of their effort, the band recently roared into Atlanta with a full head of steam, stopping at the venerable rock 'n' roll hotspot Smith's Olde Bar.

2005 promises to be a big year for Tishamingo. They've already performed on a second straight Jam Cruise with several big act on the jam circuit, and the brand new record better exemplifies their live sound. Wear N' Tear was produced by Dave Barbe, whose work with the Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt, Bloodkin, and Jerry Joseph has made him a much sought-after collaborator in Athens, GA. Barbe is a master at extracting nasty vintage guitar tones from the musicians with which he works, and the results are no different with Tishamingo. Wear N' Tear rocks, and it rocks hard.

The evening began with the soul/funk sounds of The Greyhounds, and the well-lubricated crowd continued to swell to a size well beyond capacity prior to Tishamingo hitting the stage. Texas' three-piece Greyhounds showed a lot of energy in their brief set, perhaps most impressive were the gospel-flavored grooves that showcased keyboardist Anthony Farrell's versatility. I had been waiting to check these fellas out, and they certainly didn't disappoint.

Williams & Franklin :: 2.26 :: Atlanta :: by Vincent Tseng
Tishamingo's sound invites a number of diverse comparisons: the Allman Brothers because of the twin harmonic guitar attack from Jess Franklin and Cameron Williams, as well as Widespread Panic due to Williams' voice, but that's just a surface observation. If you listen closely, you can hear the kind of rock 'n' roll that Little Feat still spreads and that Derek & the Dominos used to play. Having seen Tishamingo in Atlanta and Florida a few times, I was always struck by the offbeat covers they throw out at high points, like Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" (with Williams on autoharp) and REO Speedwagon's "Roll with the Changes." But on this night, Tishamingo threw all of those comparisons and influences out the window and brought forth a sound that I could only compare to Quincy Jones' Sanford & Son theme song. Not funky, but fonky. Greasy.

Jason Fuller :: 2.26 :: By Vincent Tseng
After a pleasant introduction, Tishamingo launched into three of their dirtiest originals, "Get On Back" into the instrumental "Hood," followed by Cameron Williams shaking off a broken string to pull off "Done 'Nuff." All are "vibe" songs, and set the tone well. They followed with their only covers of the night, Johnny Cash's "Big River" featuring some great honky-tonk piano by keyboardist Jason Fuller along with some great harmony singing from Fuller and Williams. This set up a little bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd and a song that Tishamingo plays so well that they covered it for Wear N' Tear - "Poison Whiskey." It was here that lead guitarist (well, they're actually both lead guitarists) Jess Franklin began to shine with his clean slide guitar tone shimmering off the back walls of the Smith's Olde Bar music room.

After they slowed things down with "Rather Be," the band nailed the first Wear N' Tear original of the night, the Richard Proctor-penned "Hillbilly Wine," before getting all funky again with "Sweet Thang" - a Cameron Williams tune that sounds like it came straight out of I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.

On such a festive night so close to their adopted Athens home base, and with the Greyhounds on board, I was hoping and expecting to see Tishamingo invite a few of the musicians on hand to sit in. Earlier in the night, I noticed a few extra amps on stage as well as a pedal steel guitar resting ominously next to Fuller's keyboard rig.

Lee Haraway with Tishamingo 2.26 :: By Vincent Tseng
On record, Tishamingo has featured John Keane on pedal steel in a number of songs, but I had never seen them try the sound live. On this night, Lee Haraway from the Atlanta rock band The Sundogs sauntered onstage to add that warm pedal steel sound to "George" (a.k.a. "The Legend of George Nelson") from Wear N' Tear. It took a minute for the sound and the band to adjust to the odd tone of the steel, but once everybody had settled in, they moved on to the signature Tishamingo song "Turry and the Telico Militia," and the sound was practically heavenly. The combination of Franklin's pristine slide tone mixing in with the note-perfect steel swoops from Haraway along with a charismatic vocal performance from Williams made this the high point of the evening. The band really seemed to hit their stride on this song, with drummer Richard Proctor rising from his seat with a fist-pump at the closing crash.

The show was on from there, with Andrew from the Greyhounds joining in the guitar fun for "Pete's Lament" and frequent Greyhounds collaborator Dave Yoke taking center stage for "Funnel Cake" - another great greasy Tishamingo instrumental that features frequent trading of solos between the players and a dirty bass line from Steven Spivey, who had his afro in full effect this evening, even by his high standards.

Richard Proctor 2.26 :: By Vincent Tseng
Yoke passed the guest performer role to a familiar face in the Southeastern scene - Benji Shanks, lead guitarist for North Georgia jam band Captain Soularcat. It is always a pleasure to see Benji play with Jess because they have a very similar slide style and because both players keep the same calm, serene expressions even while ripping the most bombastic, dramatic solos. The boys brought Benji up for "Ain't Got Time," the bluesy rocker from Wear N' Tear. "Ain't Got Time" showcased a terrific vocal performance from Cameron Williams, with Williams, Franklin, and Shanks trading some of the best slide guitar licks Smith's Bar has heard all year. Franklin and Shanks standing side by side, calm as they can be, both using the same high pitched, out-of-this-world, behind-the-pickguard craziness that I've only seen mastered by them and Warren Haynes.

It was a fitting closer, and thanks to the Atlanta 2 a.m. blue laws, it had to be. It's too bad too because it sure seemed like Tishamingo had another solid hour in them for the capacity crowd in attendance. So, by no fault of their own, Tishamingo was able to use the old showbiz adage "Leave them wanting more." This show was a triumph and a celebration for Tishamingo, and they shared it with a host of friends and well-wishers who left the place shaking. It won't be long before the band moves into theatres around the Southeast, keep an eye on Tishamingo, they're on the way up.

Harry McNeil
JamBase | Atlanta
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[Published on: 4/4/05]

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