Truth & Salvage Co. harks back to 70s So Cal sounds

TruthNSalvageCo.jpgIn the 1970s, the Southern California music scene was known as the laid back breeding ground of country rock.  Giving birth to the likes of Buffalo Springfield, The Eagles, and Jackson Browne, Southern California seemed to churn out on radio classic after another throughout much of the decade.

Since punk rock took over the scene in the late 70s, the “So Cal sound” just hasn’t been the same. Those longing for a return of that classic 70s sound can rejoice in the remedy that is Truth & Salvage Co., a six man collective that formed in Los Angeles in 2007.

Bill "Smitty" Smith (drums/vocals), Walker Young (keyboards/vocals), Joe Edel (bass) and Scott Kinnebrew (guitar/vocals) began performing together with the Asheville-based ragtime jazz band Scrappy Hamilton in 1999. The band toured the East Coast extensively for five years, releasing three albums independently. Meanwhile, Tim Jones (guitar, vocals) was fronting Indianapolis-based Americana group Old Pike, a band that also featured future My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel.  Adam Grace (keyboards) grew up in Tupelo, MS before moving to Los Angeles at 17 to and pursue acting and music, eventually landing a role on Broadway.  In 2001 Adam moved to Los Angeles and became a session musician, playing on numerous records, including Gary Jules remake of "Mad World" that rose to number one on the UK pop charts.  Adam has also made numerous appearances on TV shows as an actor, musician, and magician. Like any good Southern boy, Adam is a self-professed Widespread Panic fanatic. Despite having seen over 250 shows, Tim describes Adam as a “Widespread nut that tries to plan our tour around Panic’s schedule.”

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Tim moved to Los Angeles at about the same time as Adam, and soon became the Sunday night talent booker at Hollywood’s famous Hotel Café. He started performing with Adam in 2002 and two years later, they met Smitty, Scott and Walker, who at the time were performing every Wednesday at Cranes Hollywood Tavern, playing with a collaborative called the Beachwood Rockers.

Eventually the six members of Truth & Salvage found themselves on stage together, and the chemistry was instantly undeniable;  What started as a casual jam session ended up developing into a unique cooperative with extraordinary chemistry, exactly what the musicians in Truth & Salvage had been seeking.

With four songwriters amongst their six ranks, creating a bounty of original material has come easily.  As Tim put it, “If I haven’t written a song this week, we’ve got three other guys that probably wrote six.” Given this trove of material, Truth & Salvage Co. went in to a studio in early 2009 and began working on their debut album.  Though the group did not complete a full CD at the time, they did release a 4-song EP before hitting the road for their first nationwide tour, opening for The Black Crowes.

Crowes front man Chris Robinson had first seen Truth & Salvage in July of 2008, and instantly recognized their massive potential for greatness. Chris had just started Silver Arrow Records, and signed Truth & Salvage Co. as the label’s first act.  Not only that, he also volunteered to produce the album, and asked to sing background vocals on a few tracks.

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Tim recalls the recording process fondly.  “We stayed at his house for two weeks and flushed out 16 songs to whittle down to 12 for the album. Here is a dude that knows music inside and out and, his album collection is like two whole walls of his house and he has an amazing collection of instruments. He wasn’t about ‘let’s change this part,’ but was a lot more about ‘let’s get the best performance for this song.’ Chris is such an amazing singer, and he just knows everything down to the right cadence  for each beat.  I’ve been a huge fan of his since I was a teenager. I covered his songs in my high school band. So to have him notice us and really become a fan, I just tried to play it cool, but to me that meant the world to me.”

While Tim brings a heavy Black Crowes influence to the band, Atlanta native Walker Young’s vocals are an intriguing blend of traditional folk mixed with REM’s Michael Stipe.  On the band’s self titled debut, to be released May 25, Walker sings lead on “Call Back” (the album’s first single and a classic in waiting ), “Sees Her,” “Pure Mountain Angel,” and “101,” which features his most Stipe-inspired performance.

TruthNSalvageCobyTonyByrd3.JPGEach of the band’s four song writers contribute magical tracks to Truth & Salvage Co., all of which are flawlessly executed. The inspired release bares all the qualities of the very best albums ever made. While it will take years to prove how well these songs hold the test of time, early impressions are staggering.

Amongst the standout tracks, “Welcome to LA,” a semi-autobiographical account of the band’s history, features the group’s reoccurring theme of late nights, where everyone can feel the “California loving, a party all the time.”

Tim also points to “Rise Up” as one of his favorites, “We had recorded most of the songs (for the album) early last year. All the basic tracks are performed live, but then we usually over dub the vocals, because trying to get four singers all in the same place without there being bleeding and noise is just impossible. We do it all live every night on the tour and it sounds great, but I’m kind of a stickler for the vocals making sure that everybody is harmonizing right.

“We went back in to the studio in January to finish the record. We had been playing this song ‘Rise Up’ on our tour, but we didn’t ever really finish it. We went back into the studio and finally recorded it, and now I think it’s simply one of the highlights. We played it live, with no over dubs at all. I’m really proud of it.”

With Truth & Salvage Co. about to see be released, the band is back on the road for a nation wide tour that will include mostly headlining shows, along with an appearance at Bonnaroo, a handful of dates opening for The Black Crowes, and a September date with the Avett Brothers and Gov’t Mule at Red Rocks.

“Whenever we you play at venue’s with a storied history,” Tim says, “you think ‘we better be extra good tonight.’ It was like that when we played the Ryman in Nashville, and that was one of the best shows we’ve had yet. I’ve always wanted to play a show at Red Rocks. It’s going to be great.”

TruthNSalvageCobyHenryDiltz2.JPGTruth & Salvage  is a great band that seems to have the goods to stand the test of time. Though it is too early to know for sure, this band has the quality songs, the exquisite harmonies, and the musical chops it takes to appeal to the masses. Like so many acts that preceded them, Truth & Salvage pay homage to those that inspired them, taking listeners on a journey back to Southern California circa the early 1970s.  Think of The Eagles, with tinges of The Black Crowes mixed in. Add a few bits of Buddy Holly and Oasis, with a Michael Stipe sound-a-like occasionally dropping by to sing along, and you’ll began to understand where Truth & Salvage is coming from. 

Or better yet, forget all preconceived notations, and give the Truth & Salvage Co. a chance to stand on their own merit. You’ll come away better for it. You definitely want to pick up your copy of Truth & Salvage Co. when it hits stores on May 25. Until then,  you can get a taste of four of the songs from the CD, recorded live, at http://www.daytrotter.com/dt/truth-and-salvage-co-concert/20030993-37382166.html

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