And Tyler Too
The evening after we heard the news of the passing of Phil Everly, The Spin was making our way to The Stone Fox in search of rock 'n' roll revelation. As all rock fans know, Don and Phil Everly revealed many aspects of rock's future in their late-'50s and early-'60s work, and they became neo-revelationists in their recordings later in the '60s when they helped invent power pop and made modernist music as fine as any by The Beatles and The Byrds. We anticipated seeing equally excellent neo-revelationist Nashville rock from three of the city's finest bands, and what we heard Saturday night from Lylas, Adia Victoria and William Tyler surpassed our expectations.
The Fox was crammed with fans eager for revelation, and Lylas began the evening with a set that showcased leader Kyle Hamlett's gentle take on psychedelic folk. The Spin has always liked Hamlett's calm stage presence — he lets his songs' imagery float into the air with grace and style. With stutter-step drumming that operated in tandem with Rodrigo Avendano's expressive bass playing, Lylas ranged from minor-key rambles to the more frenetic "Right Hand Hand," which featured Ryan Norris shredding on guitar in the manner of Robert Fripp. Adding color to the proceedings was pedal steel player Luke Schneider, who would take the stage with Tyler later in the evening.
In contrast to Lylas' evocations of the folk-rock of The Youngbloods and The Incredible String Band, rock quartet Adia Victoria made their neo-revelationist statement via a series of bluesy garage-rock tunes. Although singer-guitarist and band namesake Adia Victoria provided focus — with her wide eyes and flexible voice, she combined effrontery with lyricism — her tight band played her songs in the manner of Love's Da Capo or The Rolling Stones' Aftermath, with greasy Stax Records-style rock thrown in for good measure.
They're a great band — new guitarist Mason Hickman, who joined the group three months ago, worked in lockstep with Victoria. Their superb sense of dynamics allowed them to go from thudding bass lines courtesy of former Black Belle Ruby Rogers to sections that worked off of two-chord structures. "Heathen" found Victoria singing, "I like to do things my way / Or I don't do them at all," and the guitars went sproing as the band pushed their songs to their limits. Tiffany Minton's drumming kept everything in the pocket, from slow shuffles to sections that reminded The Spin of a hopped-up Pink Floyd.
Adia Victoria possesses the gift of making her lyrics signify — we caught words that seemed to explore the terrain occupied by Southern belles in Southern hell. It came together in riff rock of monumental proportions, and was yet another example of neo-revelationism. Energized by Adia Victoria's set, we took time to groove to the deep soul sides being spun by The Numero Group's Michael Slaboch, who brought a taste of Chicago to Nashville as he played records by Charles Bradley and Annette Poindexter.
With an air of casual intensity, William Tyler took the stage with a band made up of Schneider, bassist (and Stone Fox booker) Reece Lazarus and JEFF the Brotherhood drummer Jamin Orrall. "Are we gonna play? I guess we're gonna play," Tyler said, and began his set with "We Can't Go Home Again," a tune from last year's acclaimed full-length Impossible Truth. The Spin noted the way Tyler shifted from meditative licks to modal one-chord stomp — Schneider added perfectly turned pedal steel licks. Meanwhile, Lazarus and Orrall kept things moving, as if Area Code 615 were covering, say, "Hollywood Dream," an instrumental track from Thunderclap Newman's 1970 Peter Townshend-produced full-length of the same name.
Tyler's approach doesn't depend on funky backbeats or explicitly stated melodies. He has a sense of humor that matches his feel for neo-revelationist rock archaeology and old-fashioned astrology — introducing a new tune, "I'm Gonna Live Forever If It Kills Me," Tyler said, "We're a Capricorn-heavy band; we tend to be older before our time." The song began with a Byrds-like riff before Tyler & Co. introduced bits of slightly off-kilter harmony, and its structure gave Schneider room to stretch out. We heard lots of influences coming to the surface during Tyler's set: the acerbic blues licks of Captain Beefheart's Strictly Personal, The Byrds and the groove of Nashville '70s rock. Area Code 615 themselves — who of course played the tune "Stone Fox Chase" — would have been impressed by the combination of Tyler & Co.'s versions of Bobby Charles' 1972 "Tennessee Blues" and Neu! guitarist Michael Rother's 1977 "Karussell." On the Charles tune, the band abstracted the original's 6/8 groove, with Tyler showing off his ability to play skronk guitar. Essaying Rother's kraut-rock classic, they emphasized the song's melodic contours.
Tyler dedicated "Tennessee Blues" to Phil Everly, which could not have been more appropriate. Paying tribute to rock basics while infusing them with revisionist energy and impeccable taste, Tyler made revelatory music that was both down-home and experimental, and that's the way it should be.