Asheville’s own southern rockers Velvet Truckstop are finally set to release their long-awaited album, Southbound and Down. It was recorded with producer Johnny Sandlin (Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic) in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Of working with Sandlin, lead vocalist/guitarist/mandolin player Jamie Dose told Xpress,, “He shaped the band’s raw material. We went through the process. Sometimes your ego’s like, ‘That’s not how we pictured things,’ but when you end up with a finished product, which is what an album is, you can see how strong of an influence he was on what we were doing, and from here on.”
The six-song record includes two Randall Bramblett tracks (“Water in the Well” and “Another Sweet Dream”), but the bulk of the songs were written by Dose and guitarist Dorsey Parker. While “Water” starts the album off right, with menacing guitars and Dose’s vocal just shy of a snarl, Velvet Truckstop’s originals hold their own. “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” recalls the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band without being a throwback or a tribute. The guitar work is crisp and plaintive, the lyrics tug at heartstrings while also exuding Americana toughness. And, proving they can rock at any speed, the unhurried waltz of “Cadillac Souls” is a dusty romance. Dose sings with whiskey-soaked conviction; the song is a sexy slow burn.
— Alli Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.
The name Velvet Truckstop works off of two disparate images: a velvet Elvis and an interstate diner. But it calls to mind something else — something decidedly Southern, yet traveled; something blue collar, yet decadent; something familiar, yet slightly dangerous. All of which work pretty well when it comes to the sound of the local rockers who go by that moniker. And, though Velvet Truckstop has been a band for more than half a decade (guitarist Dorsey Parker and lead vocalist/guitarist/mandolin player Jamie Dose are the two consistent members), it’s this spring that the right kind of momentum is building to catapult them to national recognition.
Not that Parker and Dose are saying that. “We weren’t born with rock star last names,” is what Dose says. Which means they’ve had to work hard. But, lately, Velvet Truckstop has been brushing elbows with rock pedigree, mainly in the form of producer Johnny Sandlin, who has been associated with Capricorn Records and musicians from around Muscle Shoals, Ala. He worked on the Allman Brothers’ early ‘70s-era albums and on the Cher and Gregg Allman duet. He worked with Marie Osmond and produced two Widespread Panic records. In 2009, he expressed interest in Velvet Truckstop.
“He’s a big part of the music Dorsey and I grew up with,” says Dose. Both he and Parker agree that garnering Sandlin’s attention was an assurance that they’re on the right track. Because, face it, recent years have been more about a folk-punk aesthetic than Southern rock. (Says Dose, “We’d like to see musicianship come back, and we’d like it to have electric guitars. We’re not going to change our sound and start writing with drum machines.”)
“When you’re under a lot of pressure [in the studio], it can be difficult to get really focused,” says Parker, “But Johnny’s so calm and focused on what the music needs. It was an amazing experience to to work with someone we all respected and who was coming from the perspective of what makes the song the best.”
Parker and Dose think that the recording process has made them a better band — Dose likens Sandlin’s method to molding wet clay. “He shaped the band’s raw material,” says the singer. “We went through the process. Sometimes your ego’s like, ‘That’s not how we pictured things,’ but when you end up with a finished product, which is what an album is, you can see how strong of an influence he was on what we were doing, and from here on.”
After a couple of years of meetings and sessions in Alabama, the Sandlin-helmed album (as yet unnamed) is close to release, and while a drop date has not been set, Parker and Dose are hoping that it might be concurrent with Velvet Truckstop’s just-announced headlining slot at Downtown After Five. Parker and Dose (with current band members Jacob Baumann on drums and Ian Herrod on bass) will launch the season’s monthly street party series on Friday, May 18. And they’ll do it in style — with guests Shen Hunt of the Zach Deputy Band on percussion and Tom Constanten on keys. Constanten performed with The Grateful Dead from 1968-70. He was on Velvet Truckstop’s debut album, Sweet Release, and played some shows with the band before moving to the West Coast for awhile.
“We were happy to find out he was going to be available for the May show,” says Dose.
That means Velvet Truckstop will not only be showing off its new material but “we’ll get to dive into the Grateful Dead catalog a little more than we would otherwise,” says Parker.
Before that show happens, Velvet Truckstop may have some other big news to report. The band has been nominated by the Charlotte Music Awards for best N.C. band in both the rock and country categories. The awards show takes place on Thursday, April 26, followed immediately by two (hopefully celebratory!) Asheville shows.
— Alli Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: Velvet Truckstop
where: Friday, April 27 (9 p.m., opening for Planet of the Abts at Pisgah Brewing. $12 advance or $15 day of show. http://pisgahbrewing.com.)
where: Saturday April 27 (9 p.m. at Emerald Lounge, with Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons. $7. emeraldlounge.com.)
There must be something in the water in Asheville, NC. Whatever it is, it brings out the best in young musicians, fueling their ability to captivate audiences with a range of styles , from electronica to Afrobeat to Southern Rock. Velvet Truckstop falls in the latter category, with a sweet convergence of intricate james and dirty Blues. Rather than basking in the legacies of the artists and bands who have come before, the quintet – Jamie Dose, Dorsey Parker, Brad Curtioff, Jerry McNeely, and Chris “Fuzzy” Coomes – is pushing the genre into a new exciting realm.
2009 saw the release of the bands studio debut, SWEET RELEASE, a collection of tried-and-true, road-tested compositions that burn with the intensity of an oil-drum fire pit on a cold January night. Raw guitars, gravel vocals and understated keys make SWEET RELEASE a rock ‘n’ roll salute. From the slinking “Sullen Women” to the rollicking “Mercenary Wind,” Velvet Truckstop proves over and over that not only will the South rise again, but that it is one of the bands who are stoking the flames and conjuring the spirits. This is whiskey-drinking music at its finest, served straight, with no chaser necessary.
by Jamie Lee
There comes a moment at every SXSW. Your feet hurt. You can’t bear to over hear one more name-dropping conversation or see one more person glued to their iPhone while a band is killing it a few feet away. You are tired of wading through the mess on 6th Street. You are just plain tired, only averaging about four hours of sleep a night. That’s when you need something to remind you why you’re here, and I couldn’t have asked for better medicine than Velvet Truckstop. Crammed into a sweaty Nuno’s, VT laid down rock and roll salvation of the highest order. With their lofty electric blues, driving southern rock jams and echoes of The Band and Wilco, they gave me, and several others, the will to dance down the last hours until closing time. Readers, you need to get acquainted with Velvet Truckstop. These cats are cut from some genuine cloth, the kind of band that pulls you through the rough times and sends you out into the night with a romping “Hallelujah!” Guitarist Dorsey Parker was especially tapped into something huge, making it look so damn easy but one glance at his fingers moving across his axe left your head spinning. They got songwriting skills that bow towards the classic, such as the asphalt-scarred “Carolina Way,” where Jamie Dose sings about the “broken dreams and guitar strings” that litter the highway while you’re chasing a dream. But you keep pushing on regardless, because you believe in what you’re doing. If that’s not what SXSW is ultimately all about, then I don’t know what is.
WNCW’S TOP 20 Regional CD’s OF 2009
1 Avett Brothers – I and Love And You
2 Dehlia Low – Tellico
3 Firecracker Jazz Band – Red Hot Band
4 Honeycutters – Irene
5 Velvet Truckstop – Sweet Release
6 Mad Tea Party – Zombie Boogie
7 Stephanie’s Id – Warm People
8 Sons of Ralph – When I Find Time
9 Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band – Greatest Hips vol. 2
10 Possum Jenkins – Possum Jenkins and Their Collection of Bad Habits
11 Dave Desmelik – Onlooker
12 Laura Reed and Deep Pocket – Live at Tree Sound
13 Angela Easterling – Blacktop Road
14 Scott Miller – For Crying Out Loud
15 Cary Fridley – Fare You Well
16 Jill Andrews – EP
17 Floating Action – Floating Action
18 Christabel and the Jons – Custom Made For You
19 Lance Mills – Wore Out Shoes
20 Stereofidelics – Only Sleeping
Velvet Truckstop’s Sweet Release (self-released) feels like a set you might catch in a forgotten watering hole, where those notes make you shrug off what darkness lies beyond that swinging door. It’s the sound of neon stars sparkling in dingy-bar band dreams, breathing whiskey-kissed vapors down your neck and beckoning you to a scuffed dance floor. VT possess classic rock-and-roll elements, potently muddled, from Jamie Dose’s invitingly gruff-around-the-edges vocals, to Dorsey Parker’s fleet-footed guitar turns, to Brad Curtioff’s muscular B3 and jangly piano. With some notable guests lending their chops, like Buddy Cage (pedal steel), Tom Constanten (piano and B3), and Artimus Pyle (percussion), it’s clear these cats have some seriously infectious charms. Populated with highway-weary lovers (the winning “Carolina Way”) and the road’s siren call (the driving “Mercenary Wind”), their songs aim for the heart of Allmans and Skynyrd traveling territory, with shifts into workingman’s blues. “My health plan/Is I don’t get sick/Ten dollars an hour/And I’m glad to get it,” Dose growls on raucous, brass-peppered closer “Lover Liar.” A thoroughly satisfying slice of straight-up southern rock from some boys who sure know how to lay it down.
As a band from the South whose musical roots
are clearly from there, it’s interesting that Velvet
Truckstop bears shades of rural rock ‘n’ roll as
well as the West Coast brand of the same music.
For as much as they dig deep into a well of guttural
playing and raw sounds, they exhibit the softness
and caress of something like the Grateful Dead on
“Box” or “Mercenary Wind.” Songs where guitar
crunch is coupled with effective breaks, like on
tracks “Sweet Release” and “Resting Place,” serve
both as stomping power and hip, deep grooves. By
album’s end the band is firing full tilt, seemingly
saving it up for the explosive and funky “Lover
Liar,” which exudes Memphis sound by way of
Detroit, complete with horns, wah-wah guitar and
a smooth construction eager to go ballistic.
The band swaggers on Sweet Release, laying
in background harmonies and raindrop-trickling
piano notes that seems to cleanse the cigarette and
beer-soaked environment the music inhabits. The
piano playing here is a texture that really blankets,
only slightly more than the slide guitar playing.
Both are effective and emotionally powerful
additions that accompany the vibe, versus merely
lending another sound. Jamie Dose’s vocals are a
gentle growl throughout, moving from soothing
to haggard with scant effort. He sings with ease,
like delivering songs on a porch to family and
neighbors. It’s emblematic of the album’s whole – a
collection of music that is ragged and colorful, laid
back with subtle vibrancy.
Velvet Truckstop is one of four bands selected to participate in the first round of the Deep South Battle of the Bands to be held at Deep South Bar in Raleigh on March 14th. Deep South Entertainment is known for bringing national talent to Raleigh and Nashville, and we are excited to be a part of this event.
By Brian Robbins
January 18, 2010
From the kitchen of Velvet Truckstop – Sweet Release recipe:
1.) In a mason jar, mix equal parts Drive-By-Truckers-style crunch, chamois shirt soul, Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and vintage Band-ish blues. Don’t be afraid to play with the mix as the song requires, but make sure there’s always enough of it all in there so that the Velvet Truckstop flavor comes through.
2.) Add one big ol’ dollop of jam (just enough to let folks know that you ain’t scared of it – nossir). Note: the song always comes first, though.
3.) Top the rascal off right to the rim with clear, cold water from a creek in Black Mountain NC. (Accept no substitutes.)
4.) Invite some talented friends in to help stir things up, including pedal steel monster Buddy Cage (New Riders of the Purple Sage) and good ol’ Tom Constanten (Grateful Dead, of course) on keys.
5.) Let ‘er wail.
Recipe notes: Sweet Release may be Velvet Truckstop’s debut album, but it sounds like the work of a band who’s comfortable in its own skin and knows what it wants to sound like. Constanten and Cage, being the pros that they are, step onboard only to serve the song; Sweet Release is a solid sample of Velvet Truckstop’s voice from beginning to end. They ain’t tryin’ to be nobody but themselves.
Here are the stations that are playing the new album in the early going of the promotions. Please call your local radio station and request SWEET RELEASE from Velvet Truckstop.