Stephen Babcock’s “Atlanta” is for anyone who listens hard to hear if there’s an organ in the background of a song. (You won’t have to scrunch your ears to find the keys in this one: it fades in at the one-minute-mark.) The organ performance, with all its screamin’ soul, is the heart of this folk/Americana tune.
There’s also charming pedal steel, punchy drums, and chipper guitar strum that try to steal my attention–and that bouncy acoustic guitar almost does it. But it’s the organ that really gets me in this one. It’s not even the most prominent element of the song (that would be the pedal steel or the drums) but it gives the song so much flavor.
Babcock’s tenor voice is also great–he’s got an off-the-cuff, easygoing approach to his vocal performance. He seems to be effortlessly gliding through his arrangement, like he’s singing as he walks past a band gettin’ after it on the street corner. (The below album art helps with this imagined scene.) The light swagger of the melody only adds to the freewheeling vibe. This track is a ray of Americana sunshine. If you’re a fan of Josh Ritter’s major key work (“Lark” comes to mind), Langhorne Slim, or old-school Dawes (“When My Time Comes” forever, y’all), you’ll connect with this one immediately.
“Atlanta” comes from Fiction, which drops April 6. Fiction was produced by Cody Rahn and Stephen Babcock at Seaside Lounge Recording Studio in Brooklyn, mixed/recorded by Mor Mezrich, and mastered by Kevin Salem (Rachel Yamagata, Yo La Tengo, Zee Avi, Peter Paul and Mary, Lenka).
You can checkout Babcock on a Sofar Sounds tour if you’re near the East Coast. (I’m sad to miss the Raleigh date–I miss you, North Carolina!)
4/7- Rockwood Music Hall, Stage Two – New York, NY – 9PM
4/12- Sofar Sounds DC – Washington DC – 8PM
4/13- Sofar Sounds Charlotte – Charlotte, NC – 8PM
4/14- Sofar Sounds Raleigh – Raleigh, NC – 8PM
4/15- Sofar Sounds Charleston – Charleston, SC – 8PM
4/20- Sofar Sounds New York – New York, NY – 8PM
The other Sunday I got a wild email. It said in big bold letters “Jay Electronica + Big Boi + Yelawolf FREE show in ATLANTA: This is a secret show in ATL next THURSDAY!”. Well, when I saw that I felt special, and was excited at the chance to finally see Big Boi, the shorter half of OutKast that has been aggressively working to uphold the OutKast name.
As the days passed I found the event on Facebook and that it was actually a marketing ploy by Microsoft, for the Kin; some new cell-phone that is being released. Of course, as an avid rap fan, I was going to have to check out their event with no intention of ever buying a Kin.
Well, it was a great marketing scheme. I waited with friends for an hour in the hot Georgia sun (it was still going strong at 7 p.m., and doors opened at 8) to guarantee my spot. Walking into the auditorium, there was a humongous stage in the front with 3 open bars. Before the first act (Jay Electronica) went onstage, 9th wonder was spinning at a smaller booth. This was an incredible value.
Both opening acts put on 30-minute quickie shows, with Big Boi performing for about 40 minutes. I had seen Yelawolf before at a smaller venue, so it was interesting to see the Alabama-bred rapper go all out for a much bigger crowd.
I was excited to see New Orleans native Jay Electronica perform, but he had the worst show of all. Jay Electronica never completed a whole song. Well, he did; but every time he did a song, he asked the DJ to cut the beat so he could “do it acapella” to allow the crowd to listen to the lyrics of his songs. While I appreciate quality wordsmiths, to do the same gimmick with every song and not allow records to play out was irritating.
When Big Boi finally got on stage, he ripped through the OutKast catalogue, up to his most recent tracks that are part of his album Sir Lucious Left Foot, dropping July 6th.
So in a free show with solid acts, what could be bad? Well, the acoustics of the place were bad. On top of that, the production of the concert was terrible. During Yelawolf’s set, the sub was at such a high frequency that my vision was getting fuzzy. I may have vomited if I had had a full stomach. During Big Boi’s set, both the DJ and Big Boi were obviously irritated by the terrible mixing of the show. I was grateful for the performers for putting on a great show.
However, with my ears pounding after leaving the auditorium due to crappy production, why would I trust the product that was being advertised? If Microsoft wants to woo people to buy the new Kin, then they have to step their game up in quality of events.
This past Friday I set foot in the legendary Stankionia Studios in Atlanta. I did not think I would ever have the chance to walk into the place where Goodie Mob, Outkast, and other Atlanta greats recorded their hits. The event was called Inside the Music. Apparently this is going to be a continuing series. The concept of Inside The Music is local artists performing in an intimate setting, while fans get a chance to set foot into the recording studio. Along with the open bar and the chance to meet local journalists and artists, the 10 dollar advance ticket fee was a steal.
The event was hosted by Maurice Garland, a Decatur, GA, native who has picked up in popularity with his one-man freelance blog operation. Maurice Garland was incredibly humble and was the perfect MC for the event. “I didn’t think I needed to introduce myself,” said Maurice after the opening set of The Redland. “I don’t think I am as important as these artists.”
The two acts that performed were Prynce and Hollyweerd. I have listened to both of these artists intensely, so it was a blast to see them live. Prynce was the more standard hip hop act of the two. I was surprised to see that Prynce is quite short in person due to his gargantuan lyrical ability. He played some well known tracks for the crowd, as well as some unreleased ones. He marched around the studio as if he was on a mission, and I consider that mission successful.
Hollyweerd was the weirder act of the two. Hollyweerd’s live act consisted of the 4 MCs (Dreamer, The Love Crusader, Tuki, and Stago Lee) as well as a live drummer. For their set they dimmed the lights, and added a smoke machine. Their stage presence was much similar to a rock concert. Not only was it about the the lyricism, but just putting on a fun show. They’ve been doing music for a while, and their live show exhibited that experience. If the next shows at Stankonia Studios deliver the same caliber of artists, I definitely will return for the next Inside the Music event.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.