The Bohannons are a bit of a Tennessee institution, but the central tenant of their music is their unwavering commitment to making challenging records. Marty and Matt Bohannon have been at it for a while, but have experienced a bit of a renaissance as of late. Known locally for hosting national and international artists in their hometown of Chattanooga, a mid-size post-industrial southern city with a burgeoning arts scene. The land and the population are indicative of the material generated by the band. They play regularly with regional bands Lucero, The Alabama Shakes, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Patterson Hood, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, the Features, The Water Liars and Jason Isbell. The Bohannons have been creating musical narratives informed by personal experience, blending classic and modern influences, since the early 90s when brothers Matt and Marty Bohannon made their first recording onto a four-track cassette tape in a duplex garage at their parents’ home. Their soundscapes emanate country, blues and folk standards fused together with rock, punk and power pop structures. Roky Erikson, Crazy Horse, Hellacopters, Frank Black and The Band are often mentioned in describing The Bohannons sound. Following their first release, Songs for the Disenfranchised, The Bohannons were invited to perform at 2008’s Mucklewain Festival. That same year they would complete their first tour of England. In 2010, they recorded their stellar EP, DAYS OF ECHO with Steve Albini. Recorded at Chicago’s Electrical Audio studio, the album passed hands from producer Steve Albini (The Pixies, Nirvana) to engineer Vance Powell (Jack White) of Nashville’s Sputnik Sound. Guest musicians on the album include keyboardist Jimmy Matt Roland (Ghostfinger) and multi-instrumentalist John Spiegel (Freakwater).
With a quiver of new material ready to follow up Days of Echo, the Bohannons spent the better part of the year tearing up the road between Chattanooga and Athens, GA where they recorded UNAKA RISING at Chase Park Transduction, first with David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers) and later Drew Vandenberg. With their full-length debut album Unaka Rising, they are clearly taking their homegrown, handcrafted rock to a new level. The album’s title references the Unaka province of East Tennessee and western North Carolina— “One of the finest areas in all the world,” according to singer/guitarist Marty Bohannon. The region has certainly fueled the Bohannons’ fire, providing endless stories and situations from which these songs draw. Distinctly dirty and new, haunted and alive UNAKA RISING is for those who feel cheated by the offerings of rock music for the last decade. The scalps of the ‘singer songwriters’ have been pulled back again, fists are returning to the air!
Following Bohannons’ previous two efforts (the Steve Albini-produced debut EP Days of Echo and their critically-acclaimed 2012 album Unaka Rising) the Chattanooga, TN-based foursome released their sophomore studio full-length, BLACK CROSS.BLACK SHIELD in March (via This Is American Music).
On it, brothers Marty and Matt Bohannon & company deliver an intense, highly-charged platter that incorporates punk, metal and southern roots music into a heavy and heady melting pot of sounds and styles. The band is a leader in a new breed of bands to emerge from the South, respecting the heritage of the Southern rock bands past and creating a guitar solo drenched musical landscape that is all Bohannons. Guest musicians on the album include James Leg (piano and Fender Rhodes), Nikki Ellis and Mary Higgins (backing vocals) and Jimbo Mathus (harmonica). The often thundering calamity that charges through these 10 tracks provide the perfect backdrop to the equally heavy subject matter.
“There is a theme to this album,” Marty explains, “and it’s not death. It’s the beauty of death and memorializing the departed with electricity and force.”
So we’re not just talking trucks and shots of whiskey here. On the album, they can get faster and looser in turns. And the recording doesn’t get bogged down in any spoilsome tricks, so it feels fresh enough. But overall, yup, this is your morning cup of fringe ‘n’ long locks rock.