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Bad Scout keeps country roots but blossoms beyond to universal
They call themselves Bad Scout. But if they ever decide to change the band’s name, I’m going to push for Dude Abiding because the languid and laidback nature of these tunes begs the listener to put on some shades, enjoy a White Russian or three and wistfully contemplate the ups and downs of living.
It isn’t maudlin. It isn’t saccharine. It’s an honest and fair look at the good and the bad from an “aw shucks, roll with the punches” point of view.
The Bad Scout lineup includes Jonathan Williams on rhythm guitar and vocals, Cody Ray on lead guitar and vocals, Luke Jensen on drums, Sarah Hill on fiddle and Matthew Campbell on bass. The band is the brainchild of Jonathan and Cody.
Williams and Ray met in college, played some open mics, started writing songs and ultimately began appearing as the duo Canadian Coldfront. Numerous attempts to complete a recording project failed to come to fruition, but the duo continued writing. When a couple of weekend gigs came along in February of 2013, the guys decided to give the “full band” approach a try and brought in Jensen on drums and a pick-up bass player.
According to Jon and Cody, those first gigs “sounded terrible, super loose”, but they could see and hear the tremendous potential and decided that this was the route to follow. As happens all too often in the music world, life got in the way. Commitments to school and elsewhere put the band on the back burner, and for a while it seemed like a promising group might end with a whimper, all but forgotten as the bandmates spread across the country.
Fortunately, they had written a stable of some really good and compelling music and realizing that walking away from that would be a tragedy, they doubled-down on their commitment, created a schedule for practice and performance, brainstormed a new name and secured some recording time with Matt Campbell of Square Wave studios. This has proved to be a stroke of great luck for Chattanooga music lovers. Something really worthwhile would have been lost otherwise.
The music itself is too positive to be classic country and too smart to be pop country. In fact, it ain’t country at all, but it certainly grew up in country’s house as evidenced by the dulcet tones of the pedal steel and the sweet harmonies of a different era. At heart, the music is driven by Southern culture but (and here is the really great part) it is not the “Gallant South” trumpeted by so many natives, nor is it the “Dirty South” espoused by haters. It is the “Actual South,” a place of good and bad, pride and regret, old and new.
To quote Williams: “Southern youth is full of moments when everything you’re taught says black or white, but everything you experience is somewhere in between. We love the imagery and stories of the South, and we love the people that inspire the stories we write.”
Their take on the culture is both loving and unvarnished and that is the kind of truth art ought to convey.
The boys gave me three rough cuts, which I have now run out of time and space to describe but I can tell you they cover a range including coming-of-age, love, marriage, trust, betrayal, strong drinks, coming home and comfort—and that’s just three tunes. The album itself (coming soon) should be phenomenal.
Folks, sometimes (though not often) I struggle to come up with enough to say about a group to meet my obligations to the paper. Some bands just don’t have that much going on. Bands like Bad Scout? I could have written three times as much and still not said all that needs saying. Their music is honest, true and gorgeously performed. Find them, see them—hear them.