When the South went hip, the dust from its roots kicking up into trendy clumps of profitability and sealed into Ball jars, Americana, which is an encasing for the alloy of country, blues, bluegrass and folk, lost its venom. The real-deals began to wither, buried by the steep shadows of boots-sporting, plaid-wearing marketing gimmicks and industry hit-makers, and it became increasingly difficult to dig up something that carried the distinct weight of sincerity. South Carolina’s KaiL Baxley wants to change all that, and he wants to do it just by telling the truth.
The real ones will tell you that you can’t sing the blues until you understand pain, that you can’t play roots music unless your blood and bones were born and raised in its cradle, prerequisites that Baxley’s story lays claim to, ahead of songs that bear the proof.
He sings on the fan-favorite “Boy Got It Bad” from his 2013 debut “Heatstroke/The Wind and the War,” “My father, he had to leave; my mother, she just left me,” a lyric that speaks to what might be the most painful chapter from Baxley’s life. As a toddler, Baxley was left to his grandfather, Woody, after being abandoned by his parents. When Woody died a handful of years later, Baxley became a kind of familial vagabond, drifting from one relative or family friend to another in rural South Carolina until he could fend for himself.
He met the challenges in stride, learning to fight by becoming a Golden Gloves boxer and learning to play music by fastening the sounds passed on to him by caretakers and friends — the likes of Van Morrison, the Stones, gospel and hip-hop most prominently among them — to the landscapes, influences and experiences of his upbringing.
Baxley defines his sound as “soul swagger,” a term that almost ensnares the dark, cool rings of his muggy indie-blues and haunted country style that rocks listeners slowly into the sticky thickness of the South at night, in a time when its culture’s future depends on remembering the right parts of its past. And maybe this is where we find Baxley, as an ambassador, of sorts, representing how times old and new really can merge in harmony here.
He’s serving it up well, too; NPR’s “All Songs Considered” counts him among its “top new artists” and American Songwriter gives his new album, this year’s “A Light That Never Dies,” four out five stars.
KaiL Baxley will perform Friday at the Tin Roof, 1117 Magnolia Road, with singer songwriter Danielle Howle. Tickets for the 21-and-older show are $10. Go to www.CharlestonTinRoof.com or call 571-0775 for more information.
It took nearly 10 years for the Florida-based punk rock group Against Me! to take off, a flight that spent its first few years adrift in the South Florida punk and hard-core scene before finding its best voice in 2007 on the Butch Vig-produced “New Wave.” The album refined the band’s underground growl and helped lasso the scattered influences and gruff experimentation into a polished, understandable statement that included hits like “White People for Peace” and “Thrash Unreal.”
“New Wave” introduced Against Me! to new audiences, helping the quartet reinvent itself as a smarter, heavier, modern kind of pop punk act behind a wall of sound and melodic anthems preaching a call to arms against normalcy at the hands of pariahs everywhere.
“White Crosses” served as the band’s follow-up in 2010, and the album (also produced by Butch Vig) picked up much in the same place where “New Wave” had let go, charging through 14 tracks atop a chassis of pop-driven rock power and the growling urgency of Laura Jane Grace’s vocals.
The band released “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” last year, an album that explores Grace’s lifelong struggle with gender identity disorder and her recent announcement of transitioning to living as a woman within a genre and scene long viewed as being hesitant to embrace the LGBT community. The album was one of the most critically acclaimed albums in the band’s history.
Against Me! will perform Tuesday at the Music Farm, 32 Ann St., Frnkiero and The Cellabration, Annie Girl and The Flight. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 the day of the show and are available at the door or online at www.ticketfly.com. Go to www.musicfarm.com for more information.
Managing to catch a lifeline in the sea of quality Nashvillian country, garage blues and roots rock is something depending more on luck than anything else. Every success story has to have one, and for Nashville’s Blackfoot Gypsies that line came from Plowboy Records, the label carrying its clout in its founders: Shannon Pollard, grandson of Nashville country legend Eddy Arnold, author, professor and historian Don Cusic and punk icon Cheetah Chrome.
Formed in 2010, the duo quickly began making a name for itself around Nashville with its surprising homage to ’60s Brit blues and swampy Southern rock, with an update from the garage and alt-country movements still lingering in the indie rock scene. The buzz led to a headlining spot at 2013’s Muddy Roots festival, a relatively new music festival with its feet planted in both Tennessee and Europe to promote punk, rockabilly and various American roots music.
It’s a clever package in the end, and one that has earned the Blackfoot Gypsies slots alongside leading indie blues-country-rock acts like the Alabama Shakes, Futurebirds and Trampled by Turtles.
Blackfoot Gypsies will perform Friday at The Royal American, 970 Morrison Drive, to promote its fourth studio effort, “Handle It,” released in April. Scarred But Smarter (members of Drivin’ N Cryin’) will headline the night, with local guest The Mackie Boles Band opening the evening. Tickets are $10 at the door; show starts at 9 p.m. Call 817-6925 or go to www.TheRoyalAmerican.com.