Belle Adair

Saturn Presents:

Belle Adair

Duquette Johnston, Rachael Roberts

Fri. March 9, 2018

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm


$8.00 - $10.00

This event is 18 and over

Belle Adair
Belle Adair
The breezy jangle of “Get Away,” the opening track off Belle Adair’s striking new
album, Tuscumbia, might not be the first thing you’d expect to hear from an Alabama
band named after a John Steinbeck reference. Combining mellow, atmospheric rock
and swirling, retro power-pop, it’s more Big Star than Swampers, but it’s an ideal
gateway into the blissed-out world of Belle Adair, a group that manages to make even
worry and isolation sound inviting. Recorded at Muscle Shoals’ legendary FAME Studios
with Wilco producer/engineer Tom Schick, Tuscumbia calls to mind everything from
The Byrds to Teenage Fanclub as frontman Matthew Green’s meditative lyrics navigate
a slew of major life changes, contemplate the meaning of home, and grapple with the
realities of life on the road.
While it’s been nearly five years since Belle Adair released their innovative,
adventurous debut album, ‘The Brave and the Blue,’ it’s hardly been a quiet time for
the group. Green hit the road playing bass for labelmate Dylan LeBlanc, and he and
the rest of Belle Adair took up regular gigs as the backing band for Muscle Shoals
legend Donnie Fritts and The Civil Wars’ John Paul White.
It’s little wonder that a group as dynamic and versatile as Belle Adair is as much of a
hit with fellow songwriters as they are with critics. NPR praised the band’s “dreamy
sound,” while SPIN said their music “glows with a deep, dusky aura,” and Uncut
compared them to “Wilco, when the roots were still showing, with flashes of The Byrds
and a note of country sadness.” Despite the group’s hectic schedule performing with
others, they still managed to find time for gigs of their own, including opening slots
with The Alabama Shakes (Belle Adair’s touring keyboardist, Ben Tanner, also tours
and records with that group), festival performances from SXSW to CMJ, and multiple
appearances at the annual Billy Reid Shindig.
Belle Adair has always been a group that prides itself on the strength and magnetism
of its live performances, and Tuscumbia is no exception. The band recorded everything
live as a group over the course of a week, soaking up the vibes in FAME as they laid
down tracks in the same studio where Aretha Franklin cut “I Never Loved A Man” and
Wilson Pickett sang “Mustang Sally.”
“The difference between the last record and this one is the difference between having
a band and being in a band,” Green explains. “On the last record, I was just sitting
there with my acoustic guitar and not even thinking about how the songs might be
recorded, but this time I was really able to write to the strengths of the other guys.”
The result is a massive leap forward, a definitive declaration of identity from a band
that’s ready to step to the front of the stage and buck tradition in search of their own
personal truths. It’s the sound of new chapters, of late night calls home, of coming
back to the place where it all began. It’s the modern sound of Tuscumbia.
Duquette Johnston
Duquette Johnston
It’s no secret that roots-focused Americana music has come back onto the scene with an acute ferocity. But while others are mining the past for inspiration, trying to connect modern times with those of a slower, rustic and community-based livelihood, Duquette Johnston emerges with this balance already infused in his being and his music, and with his new album
Rabbit Runs A Destiny, he shows how expansive and innovative it can be when you embrace home and yet are willing to leave it.

Over his last three records, Johnston explored his relationship with Alabama, where he’s been a fixture in the music scene for over twenty years, offering many raw looks at his time coming out of 90’s rock and roll (he founded and played bass for Verbena before the band signed to Capitol Records), the costs of fame and the toll it can take on the creative mind. But through the trials, three exquisite records emerged, each building on the others’ strengths and revealing Johnston’s knack at writing songs in his own commanding voice.

One listen through his new album, though, may be a bit unsettling for those familiar with Johnston’s older work, because it is such a departure, both lyrically and sonically. With mastermind Armand Margjeka at the producer’s helm, Rabbit Runs A Destiny runs the gamut, from stripped-down acoustic tracks to enormous crashes of drums, haunting strings and thick vocal harmonies, provided mostly by Isaaca Byrd of Nashville-based band The Bridges and singer/songwriter Natalie Prass.

“Part of my deal with doing this record with Armand,” Johnston says,
“was me trusting him as a producer, because this was the first time I’ve let anyone else do that for me.”

That sort of challenge can instill enough fear to limit the potential of a record, but Johnston’s unequivocal confidence in Margjeka’s abilities truly paid off, as the album’s ten songs are rich, fully developed and vivid beings, each a look at the intersection of psyche and reverie.

Another aspect of embracing change with Rabbit Runs A Destiny was the decision to only use musicians Johnston had never played with before. While Johnston and Margjeka bore the brunt of the album’s instrumentation, guitarist Kyle Ryan (Mindy Smith, Madi Diaz), bassist Adam Popick (Rachael Yamagata, James Farrell), string player Eleonore Denig (Marc Broussard, Katie Herzig) and drummer Evan Hutchings (Brandi Carlile, Sara Watkins) all contributed to the album, fleshing out the arrangements and giving them an intensity further developed by Margjeka’s adroit production hand.

Rabbit Runs A Destiny is new territory for Duquette Johnston, unveiling a voice that’s willing to be both vulnerable and strong. Anchored by sweeping, and often majestic, sonic landscapes, Rabbit shows a musician firmly in control of his craft, but unafraid to grow and dig deeper. These songs mark a new journey for Duquette Johnston, and one that’s worth hitching a ride to follow.
Venue Information:
200 41st Street S
Birmingham, AL, 35222