Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we showcase a band that describes themselves as “Grammy-losing international cult heroes.” The Virginia Gentlemen are a multi-genre endeavor that performs more dates a year than there are days. Their music is a grab-bag of blues, country, cajun, and bluegrass, and as a result, their sound is toted as fairly unique. Their latest studio endeavor is ‘T.V.G. Volume 1.’ For the purposes of the Spotlight, let’s take a peek at half a dozen tracks from the effort.
Let’s start our brief journey through The Virginia Gentlemen with ‘Sixty-Six,’ a brooding rocker that immediately defies the sound you may be expecting to hear out of the outfit. It’s a moody, dark sound that feels authentically blues and southern rock influenced. Think New Orleans rock and roll meets JJ Cale. The murmuring nature of the lead vocals a bit difficult to decipher, but similar to Cale, it does create an atmosphere that’s oddly welcoming and mysterious.
‘Big Little City Blues’ continues the atmosphere of its predecessor, particularly showcasing the slick production that accompanies the band. I love how the attention-demanding, thunderous percussion bounces from left to right in the final mix’s pan. That, combined with some borderline psychedelic soloing builds an atmosphere akin to a Grateful Dead track. ‘Leg’ has the aesthetic of ‘Sixty-Six’ and ‘Big Little City Blues’ as well, perhaps a bit much too so. I’d argue that even though T.V.G has clearly found their sound, they do sit a bit too comfortably within it at times.
‘Ethanol Beth,’ however, does a fine job breaking the band out of that established comfort zone. This high-octane rock and roller with tinges of southern influence is incredibly well performed; it’s a fun romp through good old fashioned rock. The band seems to just mutter their way through lead vocals, making it fairly difficult to discern any of them... (Again, Grateful Dead influence?)
On ‘Backbone,’ T.V.G does a much better job fleshing out their lyricism. It’s true rock lyricism, but slightly more understandable due to a more understandable lead vocal delivery. Much like how ‘Leg’ feels to confined to the sound of ‘Sixty-Six,’ however, ‘Backbone’ does feel like its clinging onto the established vibes of ‘Ethanol Beth.’ The album closes with ‘Vigoda’s Papers,’ the best tune of the bunch. It’s got a great rhythm section and beat to it.
I’m not entirely sure why The Virginia Gentlemen describe themselves as “blues, country, cajun, and bluegrass.” There are hints of that, sure, but in honesty, they are much more “southern rock.” Again, southern rock does pull from all those influences, but there wasn’t much country, cajun, or bluegrass in the tunes I visited. That said, it is an eleven track album available to stream below. Go listen to it fully!