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The WDVX Big Plate – 6/16 – Jon Byrd / DownRiver Collective
June 16 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, JON BYRD lived his formative years in small town America, deep in the piney woods of south Alabama just one county over from the birthplace of legendary country artist Hank Williams. In the 90s Jon became pivotal in Atlanta’s storied Redneck Underground music scene. Always a featured sideman, Jon’s first solo recording didn’t come along until after migrating to Music City nearly 20 years ago. Jon’s fourth solo album DIRTY OL’ RIVER harkens back to the first Byrd’s Auto Parts record: up-tempo country songs, lots of pedal steel, and some really strong country covers. Jon’s originals “I Get Lost” and “If Texas Is So Great” will be heard for years to come.
When Jon was just eight years old, his dad was diagnosed with TB and began singing the immortal Jimmie Rogers’ song “TB Blues” all around the house. That same year Jon saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and his obsession with the musical tension between country and rock ‘n’ roll was born. Less than two years later he was conscripted into the drum corps of his tiny high school’s marching band and played Booker T. and the MG’s “Green Onions” while the majorettes held the cymbals and danced. There was no turning back.
After touring nationally with jangle-pop purists Tim Lee and the Windbreakers, and Birmingham’s Primitons in the 1980s, the 1990s saw Byrd attempting a Ph.D. in American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta… all while becoming a central figure in Atlanta’s storied Redneck Underground music scene as lead guitarist for the seminal and legendary country band Slim Chance and the Convicts (Letters to Mama, 1993, and Twang Peaks, 1996). He also formed the hard country band the Ratchet Set as a musical outlet for his love of old trucking songs and two chord honky-tonk gems.
In 1998, after 7 years of teaching and no diss, Byrd helped country traditionalist Greta Lee record her first full-length record This Ain’t Over Yet. In 2001, he co-produced and again handled lead guitar duties on Lee’s follow-up You Must Be Present to Win. That same year, Byrd relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where he quickly made a name for himself in Music City as a singularly authentic country singer and Telecaster slinger recording with such fine artists as the soulful Davis Raines, Texas country singer Buck Jones, folk-rock songwriter Stephen Simmons, and the rockabilly whirlwind Suzette Lawrence.
But the move to Nashville took an unexpected turn. As a sideman, Jon had been long been performing his own compositions, but now he was ready to showcase his singing and songwriting in earnest. In late 2004 he debuted his band Byrd’s Auto Parts, a rambling collective of in-demand players who set about fleshing out Jon’s original material. The recording BYRD’S AUTO PARTS followed in 2007. The music reflected Byrd’s eclectic tastes in country/roots music and his fun-loving performance style. And the critics loved it: “A terrifically accomplished, versatile country singer,” reported No Depression magazine.
Since then, Jon’s songs have appeared on three Red Beet Records compilations. A duet with Amelia White, “Morning Song,” was highlighted on that singer’s 2009 recording, Motorcycle Dream.” In the fall of 2010, Jon’s composition “Silent Night” was the first single from Master Sessions, an Eric Brace and Peter Cooper recording that also featured steel guitar legend Lloyd Green and Dobro hero Mike Auldridge.
After a standing-room-only show in October 2011 at Nashville’s legendary Station Inn, DOWN AT THE WELL OF WISHES was released to radio and he began his first European tour. Over the next two years Jon put together two more international tours. 2012 also saw Jon taking the lead vocal on “How to Talk to a Baby Goat” on the Grammy nominated I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs Of Fox Hollow, a tribute to Hall and that legendary Fox Hollow recording. This recording also included Buddy Miller, Patti Griffin, Jim Lauderdale, Lloyd Green, Duane Eddy, and Bobby Bare, and Tom T. himself!
Though 2014 was a year of full-time touring, Jon also managed to record a new record of 10 songs in the Outlaw tradition of celebrating the great writing of un-sung songwriting hero-pals. Each song on ROUTE 41 is penned by a dear friend.
ROUTE 41: “The recording of ROUTE 41 is in part a reflection of my journey up U.S. Route 41 from Atlanta to Nashville nearly 20 years ago. On that trip I took some inspiring songwriters with me, or at least their songs. And of course met so many more when I arrived. A few of these writers weren’t far behind me on their own journey up Route 41. Others traveled some other stretch that got them to Music City. Nashville has been the most generously inspiring place I’ve ever known. I love living in the same town as John Prine, Bobby Bare, and Tom T. Hall… and the songwriters, and dear friends on this record!” jb
DOWNRIVER COLLECTIVE is an amalgam of influences from across the roots music world. Blurring the lines between traditional folk and progressive acoustic music, DRC draws on diverse backgrounds to create a sound that is both fresh and familiar. Following the lead of Virginia native John Gray and Floridian fiddler Bailey Warren, the DownRiver Collective has evolved from a three-piece folk group to a full-bodied string band with the added help of fellow Belmont University alumni. Connected by a love for bluegrass, Gray and Warren were drawn naturally to vocalist Ali Vance, mandolinist Rico Wallenda, and guitarist Jonny Therrien, who were all members of the same college ensemble. In the harbor of the classroom, the DownRiver Collective began to take shape.
Now, after a pilot run as the original three-piece with their debut album Kettleridge, DRC has released three new songs and re-captured two from Kettleridge in a new light. The new music is a reflection of the band’s growth and signals a new sound from the young up-and-comers.