The second half of The Road to Nightfall competition continues on Friday and Saturday at Rhythm & Brews. Like last week, both nights are a bargain—three-plus hours of music from a host of talented musicians for less than the price of eight songs from iTunes.
Despite the fact that many perceive it as a battle of the bands, it’s actually a battle of the fans. The winners aren’t chosen on merit, but on their popularity among the people attending the shows. The band with the most fans in the house wins. Function and Smooth Dialects were last week’s winners, but only their most rabid fans would argue that they are “better” (whatever that might mean) than the other bands on last weekend’s bill. As they did last weekend, bands compete again at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Rhythm & Brews with only a $7 cover each night. Here’s a primer:
Friday, March 8
Paul Hadfield and Tucker Hollow Band
Originally from Paducah, Ky., Hadfield mixes Seger’s soul with Mellencamp’s melodicism and storytelling. There’s nothing startlingly original about his songs, but like your favorite comfort food they’re easily digested and satisfying.
LaGarron Chastain (guitar/vocals), Stephen Hare (bass/vocals), Daniel Hooker (drums)
Funky, soulful, jazzy blues-based improv in the Derek Trucks mode with a guitarist who studied under Jimmy Herring, a drummer who has subbed with B.B. King and Earth, Wind & Fire (and many others), an ace bass guitarist and (newly added) Jon Elliott on sax—if the competition were for the best players—they’d be the ones to beat.
Tyler Reddick (bass/vocals), Clark Jackson (lead guitar), Tyler Wright (drums), Jon Elliot (saxophone/vocals)
Ashley & The X’s
Heartbeat drums and ringing guitars bring The Smiths to mind, and Ashley Hicks’ lazily slurred, just-behind-the-beat vocal adds to that impression.
Ashley Hicks (vocals/banjo), Eric Parham (guitar/keyboards/bass), Dan Walker (percussion), Matt “Yosh” Shigekawa (guitar)
With nimble picking and Tennessee champ Boulware’s boundless fiddling, these guys are hands-down the best bluegrass bangers in Chattanooga. But even for those averse to nasal singing and dueling banjos, these guys have something to offer, with sets ranging from old-time gospel to Grisman’s newgrass.
Randy Steele (banjo/vocals), Deron Stevens (mandolin), John Boulware (fiddle) Brad Clark (guitar/vocals), Justin Hupp (bass)
Amber Fults & The Ambivalent Lovers
The young woman with the shy, twinkling smile has come of age and her band is one of the best in the city. Butch Ross’ edgy leads, Kilgore’s and White’s rock solidness and Hayley Graham’s harmonies alongside Fults’ winsome vocal—no wonder they came so close to winning last year.
Amber Fults (vocals/guitar), Hayley Graham (vocals), Butch Ross (guitar/keyboards), Travis Kilgore (bass), Hunter White (drums)
Like the Brit originals they admire, Uncle Lightnin’ have always felt free to range across the spectrum of American music, mixing honky tonk, hillbilly and blues with boogie and Brit invasion classics (based on vintage Americana). Those who’ve tried to pin them down “have had difficulty,” according to the band. Really? Are you surprised? The whole point was never to be pinned down.
Richard Tate (guitar/ vocals), Millard Ramsey (guitar/vocals), Dan Myers (guitar), Milton Hamrick (keyboards/pedal steel), Andrew Heck (bass), Doug Bales (drums)
Saturday, March 9
Leon G and The Numac Band
Leon mixes Al Green’s sensual soul with George Clinton’s loose-limbed swing and sighing chorines. Saturday night music that still works on Sunday morning.
Birds With Fleas Formed around the partnership between Matt Siegel and Spencer Karges, who first met in their high school choir, Birds With Fleas sounds like Mumford around the campfire. Close harmonies, cranky banjo picking and melodic floorboard-stomping songs connect the past with the immediate present.